It’s not uncommon for people to only smoke in social settings. There are many social smokers who are more inclined to pick up a cigarette, especially when others are smoking, or when they’re out drinking and having fun with friends.
While social smokers smoke a lot less when compared to a heavy smoker, even social smokers face many of the same health risks. Here’s what you need to know about social smoking and why it’s still extremely bad for your short and long-term health.
Immediate Effects of Smoking
You don’t have to smoke dozens of cigarettes a day for months in order for harmful effects to set in. Each time you take a drag, the chemicals in a cigarette have quick, serious effects on the heart and lungs. Inhaling a cigarette causes your heart to beat much faster.
So while many smoke cigarettes in order to feel calmer and more relaxed, the exact opposite is happening inside of your body.
Smoking also causes blood platelets to clump together. These are the cells that control bleeding, so when your platelets are combined, there’s an increased risk of a blood clot that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
In the lungs, cigarette smoke stuns the cilia, which keep bacteria, infection, and phlegm out of your lungs in airways. Because of the many chemicals in cigarettes, including tar, cilia aren’t able to protect the lungs as well. The good news is that there are tobacco alternatives that don’t contain these chemicals, including smokeless tobacco, such as Black Buffalo.
Social smokers also face the risk of becoming addicted to nicotine. When you smoke, nicotine immediately enters the bloodstream after the first few puffs. Nicotine causes a surge of adrenaline throughout the body, which increases your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.
Long Term Effects
Social smokers are at the same risk of heavy smokers who smoke cigarettes on a daily basis. Cancer is one of the biggest concerns. There are at least 14 cancers linked to cigarette smoking, including oral cancer, lung cancer, and even cervical cancer. Smoking just one to four cigarettes a day nearly triples the risk of dying from lung cancer.
This is because cigarette smoke damages the DNA, including genes that protect against cancer. Damaged DNA is more likely to mutate, which increases the risk of cancer and other diseases.
Social smokers also face the same risk of heart disease as those who smoke daily. Each time you smoke, tiny blood vessels that keep your heart healthy are damaged. These damaged blood vessels can also lead to other issues, such as erectile dysfunction.
One study found that people who smoke less than one cigarette a day throughout their life are 64% more likely to have an early death when compared to those who don’t smoke at all. The risk of early death jumps to 87% for those who smoke one to 10 cigarettes a day.
Social smokers are also at an increased risk of nicotine addiction. More often than not, social smokers will find that they have cigarette cravings, which means that the brain is craving nicotine. This is a sign that you’re dependent on the chemical.
Aside from poor lung and heart health, there are many other long-term risks that light smokers face, including:
- Increased risk of cataracts
- Fertility issues
- Increased risk of ectopic pregnancy
- Decreased bone density
So no matter how infrequently you smoke, the bottom line is that by smoking at all, you increase your risk of all sorts of health conditions, some of which can be deadly. The best way to avoid these risks is to quit smoking altogether.
How Smoking Impacts Others
As a social smoker, not only is your health at risk, but so is the health of those around you. According to the CDC, since 1964, more than 2.5 million non-smokers have died due to health problems caused by secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke is very real. The smoke that you exhale, along with the smoke that comes from the end of a lighted cigarette, is extremely toxic. In fact, it contains more than 7,000 chemicals, hundreds of which are dangerous, and more than 70 which have been linked to cancer.
Secondhand smoke poses many health risks, including an increased chance of being diagnosed with heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Non-smokers who inhale secondhand smoke are also likely to experience breathing issues, including wheezing, breathing, and shortness of breath.
Many would assume that by smoking less, there’s a lower risk of the traditional health issues that are linked to smoking. But, various studies have found that social smokers face the same health risks as heavy smokers.
The best way to protect your health and the health of those around you is to quit smoking altogether. There are many different smoking and non-smoking alternatives that don’t pose the same risks.
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