Just one cig­a­rette a day puts smok­ers at big risk

The Buffalo News - - NFL - Dr. Zorba Paster hosts a ra­dio show at 3 p.m. Sun­days on WBFO-FM 88.7. Email him at askzorba@ doc­tor­zorba.com.

Iused to be a smoker. Many of you, my loyal read­ers, know that. I was a dumb, stupid col­lege stu­dent who thought smok­ing would make me hip and at­trac­tive to you know who.

My, oh, my. How times have changed.

I was re­cently trekking in the Hi­malayas with a good friend. We were hik­ing up 3,500 feet to see a fan­tas­tic view of peaks nearly as high as Ever­est. Huff­ing and puff­ing from the work it took, and the alti­tude, this won­der­ful sub­ject of to­bacco came up.

My friend said her mother had told her she would have to take up smok­ing or drink­ing to make it so­cially. She had cho­sen to huff on those butts for four years, just like I did. In­cred­i­ble.

I went from cig­a­rettes to an oc­ca­sional pipe. Back in the ’70s, be­lieve it or not, pipe smok­ing and a daily ci­gar were con­sid­ered to be safe, as long as you didn’t in­hale. In­cred­i­ble again.

Which brings me to the last stop in this per­sonal “To­bacco Road” story. For years I would tell peo­ple who just couldn’t quit, couldn’t give up those one or two butts a day, that while they were still harm­ing them­selves, the risk from just a cou­ple of daily cig­a­rettes was prob­a­bly min­i­mal. The harm was prob­a­bly not that great.

Well, guess what: I was wrong.

Re­search pub­lished in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal shows that smok­ing just one cig­a­rette a day, just one, in­creases your risk of hav­ing a heart at­tack and stroke by nearly half as much as smok­ing 20 cig­a­rettes a day. Let me clar­ify this a bit.

We know that smok­ing 20 cig­a­rettes a day dra­mat­i­cally in­creases your risk of lung cancer. The more cig­a­rettes you smoke, the greater the risk. But lung cancer isn’t the lead­ing cause of pre­ma­ture death in smok­ers. It’s heart at­tacks and stroke – those are the killers.

This re­search shows that even one cig a day can dra­mat­i­cally in­crease that risk, by nearly half as much as if you smoked a pack a day. And this re­search is good. It’s a meta-anal­y­sis of many stud­ies, a study of stud­ies. Could the find­ings just be an over­state­ment? Sure, but it’s un­likely.

In West­ern New York, nearly one in five peo­ple still smoke – at $10 or more a pack, which means $3,650 per year for a pack-a-day smoker. And those are af­ter-tax dol­lars, which means the aver­age work­ing Joe needs to gen­er­ate even more a year to get their smokes.

Isn’t it time to bite the bul­let and just quit? Of course it is. We have good meth­ods for help­ing peo­ple kick the habit, in­clud­ing med­i­ca­tions that work. For some, it’s elec­tronic cig­a­rettes – not a fa­vorite of mine, but look­ing at this data I would clearly fa­vor e-cigs over even one reg­u­lar cig­a­rette a day.

And then there is the so­cial as­pect that I talked about – mom said smoke or drink or you won’t be pop­u­lar. It just shows what the so­cial world does to our health habits. If your friends smoke, you are more likely to smoke, too. Does that re­ally make you pop­u­lar? Do you know pop­u­lar­ity ended with high school grad­u­a­tion!

So your way out of the smok­ing mess might be to do it as a team. Find a friend and kick the habit to­gether. Team­work im­proves all of us. That will re­ally make you “pop­u­lar.”

My spin: As shock­ing as it might seem, one to­bacco butt a day dra­mat­i­cally in­creases your chance of dy­ing sooner. If you’re still pay­ing Big To­bacco money for your fix, it’s time to kick butt.

Spend $27 on a Mon­day night yoga class at the Buf­falo Bills prac­tice fa­cil­ity on Mon­day and Peg­ula Sports & En­ter­tain­ment will throw in a free ticket to a Bills home game.

Im­pact Yoga will present Na­mas­ta­dium: Yoga in the Field­house from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the ADPRO Sports Train­ing Cen­ter in Or­chard Park. Like Im­pact’s classes at Har­borCen­ter, the field­house class will be ac­ces­si­ble to those of all yoga abil­i­ties. A por­tion of the pro­ceeds will ben­e­fit the Vet­er­ans One-Stop Cen­ter of WNY.

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