Study shows 'light smoking' still a risky habit

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If you're a smoker, you might take some comfort if you call yourself a "light smoker." But now, new research says even one cigarette a day can raise your health risks. 

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. Now, a recent study is showing just how much risk smoking carries when it comes to developing lung disease. Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Humberto Choi says what 's surprising is that light smokers had more risk than they might think.  

"The light smokers did develop emphysema at a higher rate compared to the individuals who quit smoking, and those results were surprising," Dr. Choi says. 

The study looked at more than 3,000 people over a 30-year period. Researchers found that folks who were current heavy smokers had the highest risk of developing lung disease, followed by current light smokers.  

Those who had quit smoking - regardless if they used to be light or heavy smokers -  had the lowest risk among the smoking population.  

The biggest factor contributing to a person's likelihood for developing lung disease was how long a person was a smoker. The longer they smoked, the higher the risk.  

Dr. Choi says the study results add to previous research that shows no amount of smoking is risk-free. Even light smokers can develop deadly lung diseases, such as emphysema and COPD.   

"I think it's a misconception that because you smoke very lightly, maybe just one or two cigarettes a day, that maybe that could be a safe practice, because you're not smoking a full pack, or two packs a day, and you may think that it’s safe. And a body of evidence is showing that it's not," says Dr. Choi. 

He adds that quitting smoking at any point in life can lower a person's chance of developing lung disease, so it is really never too late to quit.  

Results of the study were presented at The American Thoracic Society 2018 International Conference.