Light smokers also counting the health costs of their habit

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Every year, since the mission began in 1983, No Smoking Day has been rallying smokers to stub out for good.

Last year’s efforts encouraged a million people to quit, and the British Heart Foundation (the charity merged with the campaign in 2011) is hoping to inspire even higher numbers this year.

But it’s not just those with 40-a-day habits being targeted; the campaign wants to shift the focus this year to include part-time and social smokers.

Because while the past few decades have seen a wealth of research highlighting the dangers of being a heavy smoker, the increased risk of certain cancers being most notable, there’s been very little emphasis on ‘light’ smokers.

A recent study, published this year in the Smoking In Britain journal, looking at non-daily smoking and common misconceptions, revealed that awareness of potential health risks of part-time smoking is low.

Only a quarter (25 per cent) of the non-daily smokers surveyed said they were worried that cigarettes might be damaging their health, while the significant majority weren’t concerned.

Dr Mike Knapton, the BHF’s associate medical director, isn’t surprised by the findings.

‘People often think, including some doctors actually, “Well, if you only smoke a bit, it’s not going to do you too much harm”,’ he says.

‘Part of that’s driven by the lack of evidence; most research is done on people who smoke more.

‘We don’t say enough about part-time smoking.’

A major 2005 study, which followed thousands of men and women from the 70s through to 2002, looking at the consequences of smoking between one and four cigarettes a day, revealed heart disease deaths were three times higher than in people who didn’t smoke at all.

There may be ‘guidelines’ for sensible consumption levels for alcohol 
but when it comes to smoking, Knapton’s view is clear.

‘An unequivocal no,’ he says. ‘There’s no safe limit as far as we’re aware.’

NHS Smokefree offers a range of support services for anybody wishing to quit smoking. Ask your GP or visit nhs.uk/smokefree.

No Smoking Day is tomorrow. Visit no
smokingday.org.uk.