For social smokers who consider their cardiovascular health to be in good status because they aren’t smoking every day, an unfortunate reality check may be in order. A recent Ohio State University study found a troubling new connection between social smoking and a risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol akin to that of people who smoke every day.
The new study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, is the first to investigate these risk factors in the context of social smoking specifically. Researchers from the study define social smoking as a habit where people do not smoke every day but do regularly smoke in social situations.
Of nearly forty thousand people surveyed, ten percent identified as social smokers and 17 percent as current smokers. Examining both groups together, 75 percent had high blood pressure and 54 percent had high cholesterol.
Identification, intervention, and prevention are key for both regular and social smokers, the study’s authors glean from their findings. Questions asked of the patient by the doctor need to specifically address social smoking, so people can receive adequate warnings about what even occasional smoking breaks can do to their cardiovascular health.
Also, the author include, for everyday smokers, it’s not good enough for them to just smoke less. "Not smoking at all is the best way to go. Even smoking in a social situation is detrimental to your cardiovascular health," explained lead author Kate Gawlik.
A 2009 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine identified social smoking as a “stable form of chronic low-level consumption” rather than a “transient behavior associated with smoking initiation or cessation.” The study also found that social smoking rates in the United States are increasing.
"These are striking findings and they have such significance for clinical practice and for population health," said senior author Bernadette Melnyk. "Simple healthy lifestyle behavior changes including appropriate aspirin therapy, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, stress management and -- very importantly -- smoking cessation can do away with much of the risk of chronic disease.”