‘Social smoking’ bad for arteries too


Wednesday 8th October, 2008

Thought the occasional cigarette does you no long-term harm? Think again. The latest study from the US has shown the odd smoke can impair the function of arteries beyond a week or two.

Social smoking may be a guilty pleasure, and most people are aware of the damage they are doing to their bodies, particularly the arteries, but many occasional smokers (characterised by less than one pack per week) may not be aware they are affecting the function of blood vessels beyond a week or so.

The study carried out by the University of Georgia and appearing in the Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology journal measured blood flow changes in the arteries of young adults by way of ultrasound.

There have been numerous studies showing the decrease in arterial function of smokers, but this study measured occasional smokers who smoke less than one pack a week and who had not had a cigarette for two days. The results showed that their artery function was 36% less responsive than that of non-smokers.

Lead author Lee Stoner said: “We wanted to determine whether occasional smoking can impair flow-mediated dilation and found that repeated bouts of cigarette smoking—even if classified as occasional—appear to increase the risk for developing cardiovascular disease in otherwise healthy, young people.”

Once the test had been completed, participants were asked to smoke two cigarettes. Researchers then tested arterial function once again and found the responsiveness dropped by a further 24% compared to before the cigarette was smoked.

“We saw a definite effect of cigarettes on the arteries, even in young people who you would expect to be healthy,” said co-author of the study Dr Kevin McCully.

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