Sometimes, when you’re out at a bar, you’re drinking, and everyone’s having a good time, nothing hits the spot quite like a cigarette. Even if you don’t normally smoke in your everyday life, it can be very pleasurable to smoke the occasional cig along with your beers. You’d think that having one or two cigarettes every once in a while wouldn’t have that big of an impact on your health. But you’d be wrong.
According to new science, people who “socially” smoke, meaning they aren’t full-time smokers but have a cigarette here and there, have health risks that are almost the same level as nicotine addicts. The study was published recently in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
The rub comes with heart health. Social smokers have cardiovascular health risks that are almost as severe as full-time smokers. The study, conducted by The Ohio State University, examined data from more than 40,000 people. About 17% of them said they were daily smokers, and an additional 10% said they were social smokers. Interestingly, they found that men between 21 and 40 were the most likely to be social smokers.
When they compared the health risks for developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease in social vs habitual smokers, the results were shocking. The risk levels were equivalent between the two groups.
Controlling for obesity, the study also discovered that a whopping 75% of all smokers, whether social or daily smokers, suffered from high blood pressure. Over half of them also had high cholesterol. Together, those factors can lead to cardiovascular disease, which is still the board leader for cause of death worldwide.
So, do the costs of social smoking outweigh the benefits? Clearly, they do. It’s a testament to how potent cigarettes are that they can have this significant a health impact even when taken in moderation. It’s obviously a good idea to just abstain completely, as difficult as it can be to do so in the moment.
This also shouldn’t be read as permission to cross the threshold from social smoking into habitual smoking. Being a smoker is freighted with almost too many health consequences to list, including greatly elevated risk of developing multiple forms of cancer.
So next time you’re at a party and you want to be included in the smoker’s circle, you might want to just grab another drink instead. Or keep your hands awkwardly in your pockets and learn to cope with the pressure.