Today’s edition of alarmist health reporting comes from the BBC:
Women who are light smokers – including those who smoke just one cigarette a day – double their chance of sudden death, a large study suggests.
The link between heart disease and smoking is well established. The study that this article references is behind a paywall, but here is what it actually concludes:
Small to moderate amounts of cigarette consumption (1-14 per day) were associated with a significant 1.84-fold (95% CI, 1.16-2.92) increase in SCD [sudden cardiac death] risk and every 5 years of continued smoking was associated with an 8% increase in SCD risk (HR 1.08; 95% CI, 1.05-1.12, p<0.0001).
In other words, the elevated risk was found in a group of women that includes smokers who consume anywhere from one to fourteen cigarettes per day. That is a big difference! There may be (and likely are) very different levels of risk within this group. One can’t conclude from this study that smoking just one cigarette per day doubles one’s chance of dying from a heart attack. The press release for the study, reprinted at Forbes, doesn’t even make that claim. It appears to be an invention of the BBC. (Again, I haven’t seen the full study, but it’s very unlikely that there is anything in it to support the BBC’s interpretation.)
It should be obvious that smoking one cigarette a day carries a different health risk than smoking fourteen of them. In fact, the abstract for the study notes a linear relationship between quantity smoked and risk of sudden cardiac death. Yet the state of health journalism regarding tobacco products has become so degraded that reporters now ascribe near magical death-dealing qualities to the cigarette.