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StarBulletin.com

Even low doses of smoke deadly


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POSTED: Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Social smokers might want to think twice about lighting up.

A new report by epidemiologists shows people who smoked three cigarettes or less a day had a 65 percent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than nonsmokers.

“;Smoking is even more deadly than we previously thought,”; said Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii.

The finding is part of a report yesterday in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association that determined that low doses of cigarette smoke as well as secondhand smoke bring a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than experts had expected. The study, by researchers at Brigham Young University; the University of California, Berkeley; and Canadian universities, involved data from more than 1 million adults.

The findings:

» Half a pack of cigarettes or eight to 12 cigarettes per day carried a 79 percent increase in risk of death from heart disease.

» A full pack, or 12 to 22 cigarettes a day, carried a 100 percent increase in the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease.

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» Breathing moderate to high levels of ambient air pollution and secondhand smoke—with the equivalent of smoking less than one cigarette a day—still increased the risk of death from heart disease by about 20 percent to 30 percent compared with those who are not exposed to such pollutants.

The study comes months after the Legislature significantly cut funding for tobacco prevention. Funding dropped from 25 percent to 6.5 percent of the estimated $56 million Hawaii receives a year from the tobacco settlement fund.

Zysman said the cutbacks will potentially force a reduction or elimination of tobacco prevention and cessation services from about 30 community groups. Already, marketers are spending $42.2 million in Hawaii alone to promote tobacco. It is estimated that 1,100 people in Hawaii will die this year from disease related to smoking.

In recent years, Hawaii was recognized as having one of the lowest smoking rates in the nation with a drop in adult smoking to 15.4 percent last year from 17 percent in 2007, the Star-Bulletin earlier reported. The youth smoking rate also dropped, to 14.8 percent in 2007 from 24.5 percent in 2000.

Despite progress from advocates in their push to decrease tobacco use, smoking continues to kill many.

Zysman said she fears constraints for programs could result in youth turning back to cigarettes.

“;We're very concerned that we're going to see a reversal of that trend, and we'll start seeing more and more of our young people starting to smoke and use tobacco products,”; she said.

Its projected that program cuts will cost the state $11 million over the next five years to treat patients for smoking-relating illnesses.