Even light smokers have increased risk of lung disease

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.

Now, a recent study is showing just how much risk smoking carries when it comes to developing lung disease.

The study looked at 3,140 people over a 30 year period.

Researchers found those 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.

Humberto Choi, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the research, but said the surprising finding was that light smokers had more risk than they might think.

“The light smokers developed emphysema at a higher rate compared to the individuals who quit smoking, and those results were surprising,” he said.

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 said the study adds to previous research that shows there is no safe threshold for smoking, as even light smokers can develop deadly lung disease 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 – you may think that it’s safe, but this body of evidence is showing that it’s not safe,” he said.

Dr. Choi said the study also showed 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.