Heavier smoking linked to skyrocketing health risks

Each cigarette smoked a day by heavier smokers increases the risk of contracting some diseases by more than 30 per cent, according to a new international study published today.

The Australian Centre for Precision Health based at the University of South Australia led the study, which links heavier smoking* with 28 separate health conditions, revealing a 17-fold increase in emphysema, 8-fold increase in atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and a 6.5-fold higher incidence of lung cancer.

The findings, published in EClinicalMedicine, analysed hospital data and mortality statistics from more than 152,483 ever* smokers in the UK Biobank to look how heavier smoking affects disease risks.

Chief Investigator, UniSA Professor Elina Hypponen, says the risk of suffering respiratory diseases, cancers and cardiovascular diseases increased with each cigarette smoked per day.

The links between heavier smoking and emphysema, heart disease, pneumonia and respiratory cancers were particularly high, but the researchers also found associations with many other respiratory diseases, renal failure, septicaemia, eye disorders, and complications of surgery or medical procedures.

“Tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of death worldwide and smokers typically die 10 years earlier than non-smokers,” Professor Hypponen says.

“Despite a global decline in smoking over the last 20 years, an estimated 20 per cent of the world’s population aged over 15 years are still smoking tobacco.”

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.

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