Heavy Smoking Connected to Alarming Increase in Several Health Risks: Study

The study suggested a 17-fold increase in emphysema, an 8-fold increase in atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), and a 6.5-fold higher prevalence of lung cancer

A study published in the journal EClinicalMedicine has found that every cigarette consumed in a day by heavy smokers raised the risk of certain diseases by over 30 percent. The study led by researchers from the Australian Centre for Precision Health based at the University of South Australia connected heavier smoking with 28 separate health ailments.

The study revealed a 17-fold increase in emphysema, an 8-fold increase in atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), and a 6.5-fold higher prevalence of lung cancer. Elina Hypponen, senior author of the study said in a statement, "Tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide and smokers typically die 10 years earlier than non-smokers. Despite a global decline in smoking over the last 20 years, an estimated 20 percent of the world's population aged over 15 years are still smoking tobacco."

Association With Various Diseases

Man smoking cigarette
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The findings analyzed hospital data and mortality statistics from more than 152,483 ever* smokers in the UK Biobank to look how heavier smoking affects disease risks. The links between heavier smoking and emphysema, heart disease, pneumonia and respiratory cancers were particularly high.

However, the researchers also found associations with many other respiratory diseases, renal failure, septicemia, eye disorders, and complications of surgery or medical procedures. In the US alone, smokers number 40 million, with 16 million of those living with a disease caused by smoking. This costs their economy more than $300 billion per annum," Prof Hypponen says.

Numerous Adverse Outcomes of Smoking

The most recent statistics from Australia show that about 13.8 percent of its adult population (2.6 million people) are daily smokers. Despite a 10 percent reduction since1995, smoking is estimated to kill 19,000 Australians a year, accounting for nine percent of the total burden of disease and $137 billion in annual medical costs. Several known smoking outcomes, including stroke, were not identified in the study, which only counted cases above 200 for each health condition.

"We only looked at how heavier smoking further affects diseases risks in a group of people who are all at least past smokers, so compared to never smokers, the health effects are going to be even more notable. Other factors, including when people start smoking or how long they have smoked, may also affect the health consequences arising from smoking," Professor Hypponen said.

"In the past 20 years, the proportion of people smoking a pack or more per day has decreased in countries such as the US and Australia, while there has been an increase in those smoking less than 10 cigarettes per day. While this reflects progress, our study shows that each additional cigarette smoked matters, notably increasing the risks of cancer, respiratory, circulatory and many other diseases," he concluded.

(With inputs from agencies)