Passive smoke is equally toxic and bad for health. By Dawn Chen
Photo: Ekaterina Pokrovsky / www.123rf.com
Living in Singapore, you probably know by now that smoking isn’t really encouraged – and for good reason. If you previously thought that you were safe because you’re just a social smoker who puffs only during certain occasions, it’s high time to stop. (Also Read: 10 Surprising Facts About Cancer & How to Lower Your Risk)
A new study by Ohio State University involving over 39,000 participants found that a social smoker’s risk of getting high blood pressure and high cholesterol is identical to someone who smokes a stick every day. Among all the smokers, around 75 per cent were already suffering from high blood pressure and 54 per cent had high cholesterol. This was even after researchers took other factors like demographics and obesity into consideration.
“Not smoking at all is the best way to go. Even smoking in a social situation is detrimental to your cardiovascular health,” said lead author Kate Gawlik, assistant professor of clinical nursing at The Ohio State University. “One in 10 people in this study said they sometimes smoke, and many of them are young and already on the path to heart disease,” she added.
Just why is smoking so bad for health, and why are social and passive smokers facing the same risk as someone who smokes daily? Dr Paul Chiam, a cardiologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, explains more below.
Why is social smoking just as bad as smoking daily?
Dr Chiam: This is because smoking even one cigarette induces changes that can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. For example, there is activation of blood platelets (increasing the blood “stickiness”), damage to the blood vessel endothelium (inner lining of arteries that keep the vessel healthy) and increased sympathetic drive (“fight or flight response”) which raises blood pressure & heart rate.
Just how much damage does one cigarette do to your body?
Dr Chiam: Studies have shown that smoking even one cigarette raises the risk of early death significantly compared to non-smokers. Also due to the addictive nature of cigarettes, there is a high tendency for social smokers to become habitual smokers. (Also Read: 8 Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy)
How badly are passive smokers affected?
Dr Chiam: Second-hand smoke is equally toxic to the person inhaling the smoke. Even breathing in second-hand smoke for just five minutes subjects you to the same health changes as the one actually smoking the cigarette.
How quickly can the damage of smoking be reversed?
Dr Chiam: Some of the improvements commence within hours, but the reduction in the risk of serious disease will take many years. That is why one should never start smoking, even socially! (Also Read: How to Quit Smoking)
Within the first six hours, the heart rate decreases and blood pressure drops. After ten years, the risk of lung cancer is lower than if the individual had continued smoking and by 15 years the risk of heart attack and stroke returns to those of someone who has never smoked.