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Smoking and Tobacco

One cigarette per day for over twenty years!

03/25/2008

Question:

My mother is a healthy active woman in her early fifties. Over her adult life she has smoked one cigarette per day - only one! - for one or two years at a stretch. Then she stops for a few years, then back to the one-a-day schedule. I have researched this on the web and the main concern seems to be that a person who smokes at all will increase their smoking...but my mother doesn`t fit into this category. I realize she is not typical! So, is it harmful for her to do this? Thank you.

Answer:

Good question. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of data on very light "chippers" as your mother's use would be termed. Perhaps 10% of smokers smoke 1-5 cigarettes per day and do not increase their habit. This is clearly different from the addictive smoker trying to quit who believes they can just have "one, now and then." They can't, and they delude themselves to believe they can.

Going back to your mother's risk; it isn't zero. We know this from the somewhat surprising research on secondhand smoke. Low dose exposure from other people's smoke clearly conveys a risk of heart attack, stroke and lung cancer, and perhaps, even breast cancer. 50,000 Americans die each year from what we would consider this "low dose" secondhand exposure, whereas 400,000 die from smoking themselves

Maybe the better question to ask is, "why does she need or want one cigarette per day?"

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Response by:

Rob  Crane, MD Rob Crane, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University