Is smoking only a few cigarettes unhealthy?

Blog Post created by dr_hays on Dec 21, 2017

Smoking only a cigarette or two each day would seem to be a lot less harmful than smoking a pack per day, but that’s not necessarily the case.  One problem is addiction. For most people who have an addiction to tobacco, reducing to a few will eventually result in relapse and a resumption of the amount to which they’ve become accustomed.   For most smokers, stopping altogether is easiest.


            However, even if permanent reduction to 1 or 2 were sustainable, the health consequences from smoking only a few are quite severe.  A large study published in Circulation found that heart attack risk, and cardiovascular disease risk from smoking even a cigarette or two per day can be as almost the same as for those who smoke 15-20 per day.       There seems to be no risk-free level of cigarette smoking.  


If you do smoke at all, the only healthy solution is to stop completely.  Also, keep in mind, that health benefits begin as soon as you stop.  Carbon monoxide levels become normal within a day or two, wounds, like from surgery, heal better, after 2 days of not smoking, and lung function improves significantly within 3 months. Within one year, your chance of having a heart attack is cut in half, and within 2-3 years it’s the similar to someone who has never smoked at all!.


Pope CA et al. Cardiovascular Mortality and Exposure to Airborne Fine Particulate Matter and Cigarette Smoke. Circulation. 2009;120:941-948.


Inoue-Choi M et al. Association of Long-term, Low-Intensity Smoking With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality in the National Institutes of Health–AARP Diet and Health Study. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2017;177:87-95.