ISLAMABAD: Many people think smoking cigarettes occasionally isn't that bad for their health, but new research shows otherwise.

“Social smokers” — those who smoke in social situations, but not daily — face similar cardiovascular risks as people who light up each and every day, according to a new study.

“Our study shows that [social smoking] is a big deal. It is a modifiable behavioral risk factor that leads to adverse effects on the cardiovascular system,” said study author Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, RN, dean and professor of the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University.

People in the study were also asked to identify as a nonsmoker, current smoker, or social smoker. The latter was defined as “an individual who does not smoke cigarettes on a daily basis but who smokes in certain social situations on a regular basis.”

Researchers found that the rates of high blood pressure and cholesterol were similar among current smokers and social smokers, after taking into account demographics and other health measurements.

“There was absolutely no statistical difference in high cholesterol and blood pressure between the social smokers and the regular smokers,” said Melnyk.

Compared with nonsmokers, social smokers were more likely to have high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol.

“So many people try to stop smoking,” said Melnyk, “but it takes, on average, seven to 10 times before somebody’s actually able to stop.”

Some research suggests that social smokers may not become dependent on nicotine.
To better target social smokers, researchers recommend that healthcare providers ask more focused questions, such as: “Do you ever smoke cigarettes or use tobacco in social situations such as at bars, parties, work events, or family gatherings?”

However, doing a better job of identifying people who are at risk of cardiovascular disease is only one part of the solution.

“If you look at all causes of death and disease, behaviors are the number one killers of Americans,” said Melnyk. “We need to focus more on prevention, more on healthy lifestyle behaviors.