You don’t see as many people smoking in America these days. Since the ban on smoking in many bars and public spaces, the social pressures to quit have steadily increased. And, the evidence that smoking is bad for your health is only getting stronger. It is no longer okay, just to cut back, you have to quit full stop.
A study published in the January 2017 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that just one cigarette a day can be bad for your health. Researchers questioned more than 300,000 American adults between the ages of 60 and 80 about their lifetime smoking habits and medical history. They performed the surveys in 2004-2005. Next they collected data about the health and mortality of the surveyed individuals through 2011.
They compared the data between current, former and “never smokers.” The two kinds of smokers these researchers were most interested in were those who reportedly smoked 1) less than one cigarette a day or 2) between one and ten cigarettes a day.
The researchers found that current smokers in both of these minimal-smoking groups still had a higher risk of death from any cause than those who never smoked. And, those minimal-smokers who quit at an older age had a higher risk of dying than those who quit at a younger age.
In other words, it is better to quit smoking sooner than later, but if you smoke even one cigarette a day, you are still at an increased risk of dying. Most often this will be from cancer in general, lung cancer, or respiratory disease. The researchers found the same was true for pipe and cigar smokers, and they concluded, “These results provide further evidence that there is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke.”
It’s not all bad news though. The researchers found that, though smoking even a small amount is bad, quitting at any age is associated with improved health. In fact, another research study published in 2016 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who quit in their 60s and 70s can still prolong their lives.
The evidence tells us to quit. Social pressure tells us to quit. So, how do we quit?
Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist, addiction specialist, and researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, says mindfulness can help. He explains in his 2016 TED talk, A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit, that you can break bad habits by being more curious about them. In his research he has found that mindfulness training was twice as effective at getting people to quit smoking as traditional methods.
That is not to say you should forgo traditional methods. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found in 2015 that Nicotine Replacement Therapy–which includes things like gums and patches–does help people quit. And though there is still some risk associated with the nicotine in these products, the risks are far outweighed by the benefits of quitting.
If you are ready to quit smoking, call and make an appointment today. Our doctors can help you decide which method is right for you. We also have a mindfulness expert, Roxana Cruz, MD, here at Hunt Regional Medical Partners who can help.
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