Smokers who wish the think that choosing the “light” brands is a health-conscious decision should stop reading this. A new study has found that cigarettes low in nicotine and tar — they are marketed as “light” on the package — actually impact the flow of blood to and from your heart as negatively as regular cigarettes.
It also serves as a reminder that smoking can cause extensive damage to the body, far beyond the lungs. It remains the most preventable cause of disease and death.
In Turkey, researchers examined 62 young adults who had no history of coronary artery disease. This is a condition where the arteries supplying blood to the heart become narrow and hardened. The result is a weaker flow of blood to the most important place.
For at least three years before the study, 20 of the volunteers smoked light cigarettes. This was defined as 8 mg tar, 0.6 mg nicotine, and 9 mg carbon monoxide. For that same period of time, another 20 volunteers had smoked regular-brand cigarettes. The equivalent measures were 12 mg tar, 0.9 mg nicotine, and 12 mg carbon monoxide. The rest of the volunteers were nonsmokers.
The study used a special measure of the velocity of blood flow. In particular, it looked at how efficient those major arteries could dilate to respond to a greater blood flow. This is essentially a gauge of how healthy the heart is. The 40 smokers were tested in this way two days before — and 30 minutes after — smoking two cigarettes. They were smoked within 15 minutes of one another.
Here is what they found. It didn’t matter whether light or regular cigarettes were involved, every smoker’s blood pressure and heart rate rose sharply after smoking. Plus, the measure of artery flow fell as well, putting the heart at further risk. (Incidentally, this much lower than the nonsmokers’ measure in the first place.)
That paints a fairly stark picture. With each cigarette, the heart is put at risk. This study proves that without a doubt. It was published in the journal Heart, illustrating that nobody should be deceived into believing “light” cigarettes can reduce the dangers of smoking. There is still tar, there is still nicotine, there is still carbon monoxide, and there is still a risk to the body.