The ‘I just smoke cigarettes when I drink’ excuse isn’t going to work anymore, says a new study from Ohio State University. Casual smokers who only light up in social situations (and are always trying to bum cigs off of the honest, pack-a-day smokers) have just as high a risk for developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease as everyday smokers.
For the study, which appeared in the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers found that out of the almost 40,000 people surveyed about 10% identified themselves as social smokers, which was defined as not smoking every day—around 17% said they lit up daily. From that pool of casual and daily smokers, the scientists found that about 75% had high blood pressure and 54% had high cholesterol, both of which increase your risk of developing heart disease.
“Not smoking at all is the best way to go. Even smoking in a social situation is detrimental to your cardiovascular health," said study lead Kate Gawlik, R.N., assistant professor of clinical nursing. "One in 10 people in this study said they sometimes smoke, and many of them are young and already on the path to heart disease. Doctors and nurses need to educate patients that social smoking is still a major health risk and is not a long-term healthy choice."
If you’d like to quit smoking, or quit smoking socially, check out the American Cancer Society’s helpful guide to dropping the smelly and harmful habit. Along with smoking cessation, the authors note that making some simple lifestyle behavior changes—like aspirin therapy, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and stress management—can help lower your risk of chronic disease if you’ve been smoking awhile.