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Just 1 cigarette a day is still risky

Feb. 13, 2018—It makes sense that if something is bad for you, doing less of it is better, right? It's not that simple with smoking. Any amount is risky—even one cigarette a day.

Researchers looked at the results of 141 different studies. And they found that smoking a single cigarette carries up to about half the risk of developing heart disease or a stroke as smoking an entire pack of 20 cigarettes.

These findings suggest there is no safe level of smoking. If you're a smoker, it's not enough just to cut down—even significantly. To truly protect your health, it's best to quit entirely.

What quitting delivers—right away

The good news? When you stub out your last cigarette, you'll get immediate rewards. For example:

  • Your heart rate and blood pressure will drop in about 20 minutes.
  • The carbon monoxide levels in your blood will return to normal in 12 hours.
  • Your heart attack risk will start dropping in as few as 2 weeks.
  • Quitting may even add years to your life. You'll greatly reduce your risk not only of heart disease and stroke, but of chronic bronchitis, emphysema and at least 14 different kinds of cancer.

    And if you need any more incentive, here it is: You'll protect the people around you from the dangers of secondhand smoke. There's no safe level of that either. Exposure to it causes an estimated 41,000 deaths every year in the U.S. from heart disease and lung cancer alone.

    5 secrets for stopping

    So what's the best way to become an ex-smoker? Try these tips:

    1. Line up support. Tell your family, friends and coworkers you want to quit and ask for their encouragement. And ask people not to smoke around you.
    2. Consider a quitline. People who use them have twice the success rate as those who don't. To find one in your area, call the American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345. Do you prefer to text? Visit smokefree.gov/smokefreetxt.
    3. Talk to your doctor about medicine to help you quit. These meds can raise your chances of success. Your doctor can help you find the right one for you.
    4. Pick a quit date. Choose a date that isn't so far away that you'll change your mind—say, within a month. As the date approaches, get rid of all your cigarettes, lighters, matches and ashtrays.
    5. Keep trying. Don't be discouraged if you've tried to quit previously, but weren't successful. It often takes multiple attempts to quit for good.

    How much are cigarettes costing you financially? Figure it out by filling in the blanks in this Cost of Smoking Calculator.

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