More bad news for smokers, this time for those who think that cutting back will help their health. It turns out that while people who smoke between one and 10 cigarettes a day have an 87% higher risk of earlier death compared to those who've never smoked, people who average less than one cigarette a day still have a 64% higher risk of earlier death than those who never smoke. Reporting in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers add that when looking at the nearly 300,000 people ages 59 to 82 whose smoking habits they analyzed, the younger someone was when they quit, and the earlier they were into their habit, the lower their risks of, say, death from lung cancer or cardiovascular disease.
"The results of this study support health warnings that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke," the study's lead author says in a National Institutes of Health news release. "Smoking even a small number of cigarettes per day has substantial negative health effects and [the study provides] further evidence that smoking cessation benefits all smokers, regardless of how few cigarettes they smoke." The researchers speculate that one behavioral pattern may play a role: Such low-intensity smokers may sustain the habit for years and years because they figure it's safe. NBC News reports that smoking is the top cause of preventable death in the US, and that it kills nearly half a million Americans every year, while it claims more than 6 million lives a year worldwide. (Check out what smoking does to your DNA.)