Many smokers who are “light” or “social” smokers, that is, they smoke very few cigarettes a day, are under the mistaken impression that it’s not so harmful. As I mentioned in our book, A Smoker’s Guide to Health and Fitness, although the risk of developing certain smoking related illnesses such as lung cancer and emphysema IS certainly lower in such smokers, the risk of other problems such as heart attacks is still MUCH higher than in nonsmokers.
This recent study of over 100,000 nurses followed for many years showed that the risk of sudden cardiac death – dying from the heart suddenly stopping to work, was quite high even in those women who smoked 1-14 cigarettes daily. Every five years of light smoking increased this risk by 8% (which may not seem terribly high, but given the fact that many people smoke for decades it ends up being quite significant). The good news is that after quitting, this risk starts to go down, and after many years is pretty much back to the level of a person who has never smoked.