San Francisco, California, United States — A large, nationally representative study in the United States
indicates that social smokers’ risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol is identical to those who light up every day.
Published online in the American Journal of Health Promotion, the study is the first to look at blood pressure and cholesterol in social smokers. Smoking is a risk factor for unhealthy blood pressure and cholesterol and both are significant contributors to cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of men and women worldwide.
While 17 percent of 39,555 people surveyed from February 2012 to February 2016 in the study called themselves current smokers and more than 10 percent said they were social smokers, meaning that they didn’t smoke every day, about 75 percent of these current and social smokers had high blood pressure and roughly 54 percent had high cholesterol.
In addition, social smokers in the study were more likely to be younger, between 21 and 40 years old, male and Hispanic.
After the researchers took into account demographic and biometric differences between the smokers and social smokers in the study, they found no difference in the risk of hypertension or high cholesterol.
“These are striking findings and they have such significance for clinical practice and for population health,” said study senior author Bernadette Melnyk, dean of Ohio State University’s College of Nursing and chief wellness officer for the university.
Social smokers were defined as those who do not smoke cigarettes daily, but who smoke in certain social situations regularly. “This has been a fairly neglected part of the population. We know that regular smoking is an addiction, but (health care) providers don’t usually ask about social smoking,” Melnyk said.
“Not smoking at all is the best way to go,” lead author Kate Gawlik, assistant professor of clinical nursing at the Ohio State University, was quoted as saying in a news release. “Even smoking in a social situation is detrimental to your cardiovascular health.”