Social smokers warned

| August 16, 2017

A new study has found that those who enjoy an occasional cigarette in social situations risk developing similar levels of heart-disease precursors as a person who smokes a pack or more a day, according to a Times Leader (Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania) piece by Dr. Bernadette Melnyk of the Department of Nursing, Ohio State University.

Melnyk said that the study she conducted with other nursing and health services researchers was the first population health study to compare the blood pressure and cholesterol levels of people who self-identified as current versus social smokers.

The study of nearly 40,000 people conducted over a four-year period as part of the Ohio State University’s Million Hearts educational program identified non-smokers, current regular smokers and those who said they were ‘social smokers’, meaning they didn’t have a cigarette every day.

The researchers collected deidentified data from volunteers who completed Million Hearts cardiovascular screenings. After taking into account demographic and physical differences between the regular and social smokers, they found there was virtually no difference in their risk of experiencing hypertension or high cholesterol, conditions that frequently lead to heart disease.

‘I believe that this is one of the most important findings in tobacco-related health in years, and it brings to light an issue, like e-cigarettes and second-hand smoke, that we in the health care field must address with urgency,’ Melnyk said.

‘We now know that once people start opening packs of cigarettes, whether it’s for daily use or just to socialize at a party, they’re entering the same on-ramp toward serious health problems.’

The study is at: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0890117117706420.

The Times Leader story is at: http://timesleader.com/features/671692/ohio-state-study-shows-social-smokers-at-same-risk-as-daily-tobacco-users.

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