Part-time smokers in denial about triple heart death risk - Solutions 4 Health

Part-time smokers in denial about triple heart death risk

26 February 2014

Nation’s 1.1 million ‘part-time’ smokers’ put lives on the line, say British Heart Foundation

Part-time smokers in denial about triple heart death risk Nation’s 1.1 million ‘part-time’ smokers’ put lives on the line, say British Heart Foundation The majority of part-time and social smokers are oblivious to the fact they could be tripling their risk of dying from heart disease, according to a stark warning from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) in the lead-up to No Smoking Day (12th March).

New research from the nation’s heart charity shows that only a quarter (25%) of part-time smokers are worried that their addiction is harming their health despite getting through an average 37 cigarettes a week. (i)

Smoking just one to four cigarettes a day can triple a person’s risk of heart disease (ii).This means many part-time smokers are putting themselves at severe risk of a smoking related death, often without realising it.

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: “This research shows that many part-time and social smokers are still smoking enough every week to put their lives on the line. We need people to face-up the deadly risk they’re taking from social or part-time smoking.

“We know it’s not easy to quit. But with No Smoking Day around the corner we’re urging people who smoke even just a few cigarettes a week to face up to their addiction and join the million other smokers attempting to quit on March 12.” The research, carried out by world leading smoking expert Professor Robert West of University College London, is the first major study to look at the myths surrounding non-daily smoking.

The BHF estimate there are 1.1 million part-time or social smokers in the UK who give a range of excuses for smoking despite not reaching for a cigarette every day. More than one in three (36%) say it helps them cope with stress while almost one in five (19%) say it helps them socialise. The study of 3,525 non-daily smokers also revealed:

  • Just one in seven (15%) part-time smokers say they feel addicted to cigarettes, compared to more than one in three (38%) daily smokers.
  • An average part-time smoker would spend almost £800 on cigarettes every year.
  • Nearly two thirds (61%) of part-time smokers say they enjoy the deadly and highly addictive habit, despite two in five (40%) saying they’ve tried to quit in the past year.
  • Despite the increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke from passive smoking (3), less than one in six (15%) of part-time smokers expressed concern about smoking harming their family. (2)

Jenny Hall, aged 28 from London has been a part-time smoker since she was 13-years-old.

“Some weeks I smoke two or three cigarettes a day but I can go also for a whole week without lighting up at all. I don’t smoke at home as it tends to be centred mostly on social arrangements.

“I’ve never felt like I smoke enough to worry about the impact on my health and I’ve always told myself that I’ll give up at some point in the future when I’m pregnant.

“It surprised me to hear about the heart health risk as I’ve always linked smoking to cancer and that’s not something I worry about right now. The research has definitely made me think twice about how much I smoke.”

Professor Robert West, author of the study, said: “The truth is that everyone who smokes can benefit from stopping – even if they don’t smoke every day. The science of stopping tells us that there is no single method that works for everyone but there are things that will make lasting success more likely. That includes getting free professional advice from a trained stop-smoking advisor through the NHS.”

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “Smoking is a major cause of premature death, with one in two smokers dying prematurely from smoking related diseases. It is extremely worrying that people still underestimate the harm it can cause to their health – even if you are only smoking a few cigarettes a day.

“The first day without cigarettes is often the hardest, which is why on No Smoking Day we are giving smokers thinking about quitting support and motivation through ‘One Day Quit’, to help them through their first 24 hours smokefree.”

The theme for this year’s No Smoking Day is ‘V for Victory’. For more information about No Smoking Day and the support available to you to help you win the fight against cigarettes, visit or join the conversation on Twitter using #nosmokingday

(i) Herbec A, Brown J, West R (2014) Non-daily smoking in England: addressing common misconceptions. Smoking in Britain, 4. Available at:
(ii) Bjartveit K, Tverdal A. Health Consequences of Smoking 1-4 cigarettes a day. Tobacco Control 2005: 14:315-320. doi: 10.1136/tc.2005.011932. Available from:
(iii) Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH).Secondhand smoke: review of evidence since 1998. Update of evidence on health effects of secondhand smoke. 2004. Department of Health

The Smoking Myth Buster

Common Smoking Myths Part-Time Smokers Use The reality More than one in three (36%) say smoking helps them to cope with stress Research into smoking and stress has shown that the stress levels of adult smokers are higher than those of non-smokers. Far from acting as an aid for mood control, nicotine dependency seems to exacerbate stress. (iii)
Almost one in five (19%) say smoking helps them socialise It’s possible that cigarettes provide smokers with a way to start friendships and make socialising easier through a shared common interest. However it is getting harder to smoke in public places, and it will become harder still in the future – smoking is more often going to be a cold and lonely habit.
Nearly one in five (18%) say smoking makes them feel less anxious Research into smoking and stress has shown that, instead of helping people to relax, smoking actually increases anxiety and tension. (iv)
One in six (16%) say smoking gives them something to do Smoking can kill time, but it can also kill you. Non-smokers have on average more time and money for hobbies and jobs than non-smokers. It really shouldn’t be too hard to think of other things to do to occupy yourself instead of having a cigarette.
One in eight (12%) say smoking makes them feel less depressed Smokers are more depressed on average than non-smokers and depression levels certainly do not go up in people who stop. (v)

(iv) Parott AC. Does cigarette smoking cause stress? The American Psychologist 1999: 54(10):817-20.
(v) Herbec A, Brown J, West R (2014) Non-daily smoking in England: addressing common misconceptions. Smoking in Britain, 4. Available at:


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