A Single Cigarette Can Raise the Risk of Cancer and Heart Disease



We all know that smoking is bad for us, but a new report from the U.S. Surgeon General concludes that even a single cigarette can cause immediate harm and raise the risk of diseases like cancer and heart disease.

That means that you don’t have to be a heavy smoker to suffer the effects of tobacco use. The report finds that any exposure to smoking — a single drag of a cigarette, occasional smoking or secondary exposure to cigarette smoke — can damage the body’s cells, tissue and DNA, raising the risk of cancer.

“Low levels of smoke exposure, including exposures to secondhand tobacco smoke, lead to a rapid and sharp increase in dysfunction and inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels, which are implicated in heart attacks and stroke,” said the report, released on Dec. 9 by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. “The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale. Your blood then carries the toxicants to every organ in your body.”


More than 7,000 chemicals and compounds are contained in each cigarette, 1% of which are known carcinogens. The Surgeon General’s report further notes that cigarette manufacturers have recently changed the design and ingredients in cigarettes to deliver toxic ingredients more effectively and make smoking more addictive. USA Today reports that changes include:

•Ammonia added to tobacco, which converts nicotine into a form that gets to the brain faster

•Filter holes that allow people to inhale smoke more deeply into the lungs

•Sugar and “moisture enhancers” to reduce the burning sensation of smoking, making it more pleasant, especially for new cigarette users

Smokers who believe a few cigarettes a day don’t do any harm will need to think again.

New research has revealed that smoking just one cigarette a day triples the risk of heart disease and lung cancer.

The researchers studied the health and death records of 43,000 men and women.

They tracked the smoking habits of the men and women, who had been screened for heart disease at the start of the study, from the 1970s to 2002.

“In both sexes, smoking one to four cigarettes per day was associated with a significantly higher risk of dying from ischaemic heart disease and from all causes, and from lung cancer in women,” said Dr Aage Tverdal.

Experts agree that smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world. Smoking causes over a quarter of cancer deaths in developed countries and nearly one in five cancer cases.


Around half of current smokers will be killed by their habit if they continue to smoke. And 25-40% of smokers will die in middle age.

Smoking causes even more deaths from other respiratory diseases and heart conditions than from cancer.If current trends continue, scientists estimate that tobacco will kill about one billion people in the twenty-first century.

Smokers are more than 5 times as likely as nonsmokers to develop abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Nicotine can trigger palpitations.

Among people over 65, smokers have four to eight times the risk of an aneurysm than the average person’s risk: those with high blood pressure have double the risk.

Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke both significantly hasten hardening of the arteries, and the damage may be permanent, says a study at Wake Forest University.


Smoking may account for a 50% increase in the development of arteriosclerosis (the buildup of plaque along arterial walls) for current smokers, and 25% for past smokers.

In the winter, smokers may be at an increased risk of heart disease due to higher blood pressure and heart rate, say researchers in Israel. Although winter blood pressure readings are typically higher for most people, in smokers the average increase in systolic blood pressure was twice the increase in non-smokers. (“Cold Weather Raises Heart Risk for Smokers,”)

Smoking damages the arteries to the heart and brain, thereby increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Cigarette smoking harms the body by raising cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

One cigarette can impair circulation for up to 45 minutes by constricting the small blood vessels.