WEDNESDAY, Sept. 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Current low-intensity smokers have an increased risk for respiratory and lung cancer mortality, according to a study presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress 2020, being held virtually from Sept. 7 to 9.

Pallavi Balte, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., Ph.D., and Elizabeth Oelsner, M.D., M.P.H., from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, examined the relative risks for respiratory and lung cancer mortality in low-intensity smokers using data from four U.S. general population cohorts. Current smokers were classified by self-reported cigarettes per day (CPD).

The researchers found 649 and 560 of the 18,730 participants died from respiratory causes and from lung cancer, respectively. The risk for respiratory and lung cancer mortality was increased for those with <10 CPD compared with never smokers (hazard ratios, 2.5 and 8.6, respectively). Smoking <10 CPD was associated with 49 and 71 percent of the risks for respiratory and lung cancer mortality, respectively, seen for smoking 20+ CPD. After adjustment for smoking duration, the results were slightly attenuated.

“You might think that if you only smoke a few cigarettes a day you are avoiding most of the risk. But our findings [suggest] that social smoking is disproportionately harmful,” Balte said in a statement. “Smoking is dangerous, regardless of whether you are a heavy smoker or a social smoker, so if you don’t want to die of lung cancer or respiratory disease, the best action is to quit completely.”

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