Safe amount of cigarettes

Mahy things are fine in moderation, but deadly in excess, such as Alcohol, fat-free potato(e) chips, talk-radio, etc. If you overwhelm the body’s ability to process foreign substances, thats when real trouble starts. Is there a similar threshold for tobacco products? Three packs a day is clearly not good for the body, but what about 3 cigarettes a day? Of course if would still cause cancer/raise your risk of cancer, but so do fully-cooked hamburgers. What in modern industrial life doesn’t?

Obviously, a clinical study of this would be a political hot potato(e) to put it mildly, but does anyone know of any European studies, anecdotal evidence, personal opinion, etc?

Not that any of this will matter once we are all replaced by rat-brained cyborgs.

I remember reading about a study, pretty recently, that cigarette smokers who quit before 30/35 (not sure) had no higher rates of lung cancer and/or mortality than those who never smoked. Sorry for being vague, but I first saw it on those news tickers on CNN and then read about it online at the BBC, I believe. I’m going to search for it now. Found it.

Also, I finished reading Powerful Medicines a week back and remember, among other things, the statement that “most smokers don’t get lung cancer”. Of course, that’s a statistical assessment. You don’t know whether YOU will get it or not. Medical drugs, presumably for their benefit and despite being necessary, need to pass stringent safety standards (supposedly - see Vioxx for a public steep counterexample). The thing is, smoking is a vice, and hence is subjected to an even greater magnifying glass. So, when you hear that smoking is not at all safe, that’s a binary assessment for essentially something that’s more accurately expressed in terms of grey.

[Moderator Hat ON]

Since this is asking for facts, I think it will do better in General Questions.

[Moderator Hat OFF]

As an ex-3 pack a day jerk, I think none is pretty safe.

As I see it, the problem with having a safe number is that you spend time keeping track of how many you’ve had. That looks like a sure way to kill some of the enjoyment of life.

I would argue that keeping track of how many you’ve had is not much of a burden. Really, if were talking 3-5 smokes a day, it shouldnt require a great exertion to remember.

How Many Cigarettes Is One Too Many?

More information needed here. That statement is perfectly consistent with most smokers dying of heart failure in their forties before cancer has a chance to set in, and it’s also perfectly consistent with 49% of smokers getting lung cancer. Neither of which is exactly an indicator that smoking is healthy.

OK, I’m not sure you’re posting that link as a way of trying to subtly say that the notion of there being a safe number of cigarettes is a fallacy, or if you linked to the wrong thread by accident, or if you think some post in there answers the question.

<brief hijack>
You have provided some great answers in GQ, and I really respect your knowledge, and maybe it’s just me, but you have come across as extremely condescending in your recent GQ posts.
</brief hijack>

Could you provide a link or a cite for this? most smokers dying of heart failure in their forties and 49% of smokers getting lung cancer both sound unreasonable (not really the word I’m looking).

Or am I being whooshed?

No, it’s bullshit. According to the American Cancer Society:

The heart disease nonsense doesn’t merit the energy to look up a cite.

Try it sometime after you’re hooked on tobacco. It’s not the effort of keeping track. It’s the saying, “No, it isn’t quite time yet.”

II Gyan II: [I read] “most smokers don’t get lung cancer.”

Chronos: More information needed here. That statement is perfectly consistent with most smokers dying of heart failure in their forties before cancer has a chance to set in, and it’s also perfectly consistent with 49% of smokers getting lung cancer.

MemoryLeak: Could you provide a link or a cite for this? [Those propositions] both sound unreasonable…Or am I being whooshed?

No whoosh, no cite, because Chronos isn’t averring those are facts. Let me translate: I’d like more specific information about that, because saying “most smokers don’t get lung cancer” could be a true statement if most smokers died from heart disease instead, or could be a true statement if 49.9% of them got lung cancer.

Then again, it could also be a true statement if .001% of smokers got lung cancer. As stated, it’s too broad to be very helpful, hence the request for more info, which was kindly provided by Fear Itself (who apparently also mistook Chronos’ examples as assertions).

This is going to sound like an odd point, but as a current two pack plus a day smoker, who on earth would suck down one if they didn’t smoke regularly?

They taste horrible if you can actually taste them (I’ve quit for long periods before going back…)

That having been said, I would suspect that two or three a day wouldn’t kill you prematurely, just from a sensibility standpoint. That having been said, increased risk of dependence would be there (i.e. "I’m pissed/ depressed/ drunk/ what have you/ I need a smoke mentality) and perhaps increase your daily total to unsafe levels (People would laugh if you asked how much heroine was safe, right?).

You’d also have decreased lung and muscle capacity (It takes eight hours for carbon monoxide to clear the system from a single smoke according to the quitting resources I’ve read, and two days to regain full lung capacity. Smoke inhalation isn’t cool, when you think about it.)

Plus, as odd as it sounds, the main benefit of the cigarette is to the addict, not the casual user. Addicts get the immediate claming effect from it, while a casual user gets just a “buzz”.

One a day, if controlled, probably won’t kill you (If you lived to be ninety, you’d have smoked less than me, and I live a remarkably full life…) but control and reality are often different, and will naturally vary with the individual…

In re the OP: Emphysema is likely after 40-50 pack-years of smoking, lung cancer with more. Most sites I saw (Google on pack-years) start worrying about those and other ailments at 20 pack-years.

For the last few years I’ve smoked socially and when I need to take a walk and clear my head. While I don’t like the smell when I’m not smoking, it doesn’t bother me when I do smoke. Sometimes a few months would pass between me having a cigarette, and sometimes I’d smoke a pack in a weekend if I went to a lot of parties, but my average has been significantly less than a cigarette a day. I just bought a pack yesterday. I think it was the fourth pack I’ve bought this year.

I don’t doubt that cigarettes can be very damaging and addictive, but I’ve never had a problem. And I rather enjoy them in small doses.

It depends on how many heroes shes been with. :wink:

This nice little study does a good job in demonstrating that smoking 3 to 5 cigarettes a day for two decades significantly raises mortality in both men and women.

People who are able to smoke that few over a long period of time are commonly called “chippers”. Other studies have shown that only 5% of people who smoke are able to keep their smoking to this level or less over longer periods of time.

So we see fairly good evidence from a rigorous study that smoking 3 to 5 cigarettes a day for decades is not a safe amount.


This is absolutely true. When I smoked I could go with a few cigarettes a day for a while, but before you know it you’re up to 5 a day, 6 a day, 8 a day…I can hold at that amount for a long time but I’m sure over the years it would increase. First it’s just one after work and at night, next you’re having one on the way to work, then you’re sneaking out to the smoking shack to have one during the day, then two, then you go out with friends and overdue it…I’m glad I quit, it’s a neverending spiral that I don’t think can be combatted without 100% quitting.

Not necessarily a number that you’ve decided is safe. There are some people, though rare, who smoke at the same time everyday and very few cigarettes. A former girlfriend of mine smokes on average 5 cig/day. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

More curious, she tried several time to quit smoking, and failed! It seems weird to me that you can be addicted with so few cigarettes/ day.

And by the way, she’s worried about lung cancer (actually about cancers generally speaking), so the OP question would be relevant to her.

As for people stating that one is too many, how does a cigarette’s smoke compare with the other kinds of smoke people are exposed to? Around a barbeque, for instance? Smoke and exhausts in a city? Smoke near the fireplace in winter, for people who have a fireplace? And so on…why do people seem to think that cigarette smoke is so extraordinarily nasty that it must be avoided at all cost, contrarily to the fireplace/barbeque, etc…

I think this is interesting since, clearly, cancer is sort of a lottery. My dad died of complications from lung cancer. He was a heavy smoker for more than 50 years. When he got the diagnose, there was this other guy, the same age, who also got the diagnosed with LC at about the same time. That guy, who had never had a smoke in his life, died six months later, my dad lived for almost three years.

I also think it’s a compound problem: Smoking is bad. Build your house on a granite cliff, with a loads of backgroud radiation, and things get worse. If that cliff is ain a town with heavy pollution, you’re in trouble. And if your job, on top of that, is cleaning out asbestos from old buildings…