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‘No Safe Level’ Of Smoking, Claims Surgeon General

December 9, 2010

Just one cigarette, or even limited exposure to someone else’s secondhand smoke, could be enough to cause severe medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, the US Surgeon General claims in a new report released on Thursday.

The report, which is entitled ‘How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease’ and is the 30th tobacco-related report released by the Surgeon General’s office since 1964, “substantiates the evidence that there is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke,” current Surgeon General Regina Benjamin told AFP.

“You don’t have to be a heavy smoker or a long-time smoker to get a smoking-related disease or have a heart attack or asthma attack that is triggered by tobacco smoke,” the French news agency quotes the report as saying. “Low levels of smoke exposure, including exposures to secondhand tobacco smoke, lead to a rapid and sharp increase in dysfunction and inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels, which are implicated in heart attacks and stroke.”

In addition to the cardiovascular risks, Benjamin says that inhaling “even the smallest amount” of cigarette smoke can cause damage to a person’s DNA and increase the risk of cancer, and that repeated exposure to tobacco fumes can harm the body’s ability to heal itself.

According to a December 9 press release from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the report also discovered that modern cigarettes “deliver nicotine more quickly and efficiently” than their predecessors, that cigarettes contain at least 70 chemicals that are known to cause cancer, and one-third of all cancer deaths in America can be linked to smoking.

“That one puff on that cigarette could be the one that causes your heart attack,” Benjamin told AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard, who in a Thursday article refers to smoking as “the killer the nation just can’t kick” and says it is responsible for roughly 443,000 deaths in the United States each year.

“This report makes it clear–quitting at any time gives your body a chance to heal the damage caused by smoking,” the Surgeon General added in a separate statement. “It’s never too late to quit, but the sooner you do it, the better.”

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