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Myths about smoking

 Sort the fact from fiction with our review of smoking myths and misconceptions:

Are low-tar cigarettes safe to smoke?

There is no safe cigarette; a low-tar cigarette is just as harmful as other cigarettes. Although low-tar cigarettes can be slightly less damaging to your lungs over a long period of time, people who smoke these have been shown to take deeper puffs, puff more frequently and smoke the cigarettes to a shorter butt length.

Switching to low-tar cigarettes has few health benefits compared with the benefits of quitting.

Are 'rollies' safe to smoke?

Roll-your-own tobacco contains many of the same chemicals as manufactured cigarettes. Research suggests that roll your own (RYO) tobacco is at least as harmful, or possibly more harmful than smoking factory-made cigarettes. Studies show that RYO smokers tend to make cigarettes that can yield high levels of tar and nicotine. They may also not use a filter. Both RYO only and mixed smokers report inhaling more deeply than factory-made cigarette smokers. More research is required to determine the levels of chemicals inhaled by RYO smokers.

Will cutting down the number of cigarettes I smoke reduce my health risks?

There is no safe level of cigarette consumption. Some people try to make their smoking habit safer by smoking fewer cigarettes, but most find this hard to do and quickly return to their old pattern. Although reducing your cigarette consumption will slightly reduce your risk, quitting is the only way to long-term health benefits.

Just three cigarettes a day can trigger potentially fatal heart disease, with women particularly at risk.

Is it ok to smoke socially?

Anyone who smokes is at a risk of becoming addicted to nicotine. The more you smoke, the more your body learns to depend on nicotine – this is what makes quitting so hard. People often think they are in control of social smoking habits when they are not; even low levels of cigarette consumption are damaging to you and the people around you.

Only old people get ill from smoking don't they?

Anyone who smokes tobacco increases their risk of ill health. All age groups suffer short-term consequences of smoking that include decreased lung function, shortness of breath, cough and rapid tiring during exercise. Smoking also diminishes the ability to smell and taste and causes premature ageing of skin.Smoking related diseases often develop over a number of years before a diagnosis is made. The longer you smoke, the greater your risk of developing cancer, heart, lung and other preventable diseases. However, people in their 20s and 30s have died from strokes caused by smoking.

Are men or women more at risk from smoking?

Men and women are equally susceptible to the damage caused by chemicals in cigarettes. For women, cigarette smoking increases the risk of a number of specific health problems. Women who smoke can experience irregular periods and secondary amenorrhea (absence of menstruation); and those on the pill have a greater risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease. Women smokers also have a higher risk of developing cervical cancer, vulval cancer and heart disease.

Will smoking affect pregnancy?

Women who smoke can experience difficulties during pregnancy and childbirth, including complications, miscarriage and premature birth. Smoking is also associated with a higher risk of having stillborn and low birth-weight babies, and losing children early in life.

Does everyone who quits smoking put on weight?

When you stop smoking you are likely to find you have a larger appetite and be tempted to replace cigarettes with food. You can avoid weight gain after quitting by being aware of this and doing extra exercise and adopting healthy eating habits.

Is there a proven link between passive/second-hand smoke and disease?

Every credible medical and scientific organisation in the world agrees that secondhand smoke exposure causes serious illness and death in non-smokers. The only group that denies a link between passive smoking and illness in adults and children is the tobacco industry.

Don't I have the right to smoke if I want to?

Very few adults “choose” to smoke. Most smokers start as children or adolescents, before they know the risks of tobacco use and the addictive qualities of nicotine. Of course you have the right to smoke, but not the right to harm others with that smoke.


For more information:

To read about other cancer myths or misconceptions or to submit you a question, head to iheard.

This page was last updated on: Monday, June 1, 2015