Trying to Cut Down on Smoking Won’t Improve Lung Health – Quitting is How You Do It

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A new study carried by researchers from different universities in the US found that smokers can improve their lung health only by quitting smoking. Cutting down is not the solution, and even heavy smokers who quit can get healthier than those who occasionally smoke.

The paper has been recently published online in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The study analyzed data from a study called the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA). After getting the data of 3,140 individuals of an average age of 25 years old, researchers continued to get data for 30 years. The participants of the study took spirometry tests and chest CT scans at 15, 20 and 25 years after registering for the program.

A 30 Year-long Study to Prove Quitting is the Best Option

The lead author of the study is Amanda Mathew (Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine). She stated:

“The CARDIA dataset gave us a unique opportunity to learn about the impact of different levels of smoking on lung health and lung disease risk. Participants were asked about their smoking each year, which minimized recall bias and allowed us to model changes in smoking habits over time.”

The team of researchers found that, compared to the participants that never smoked, the group with consistent heavy smokers saw a decline in lung function. This group had a 26 times more risk to develop emphysema. They were also up to eight times more likely to have obstructive lung disease.

What wasn’t researched until now was how smoking affected light smokers. The light smokers’ category includes participants that smoked less than 10 packs per year. The group had an average of 6.4 pack/year. Researchers compared the light smokers group with smokers that had 9.8 pack/year, but quit.

Cutting Down is the First Step, But Quitting Will Reduce Lung Disease Risk

The results were quite interesting, said Dr. Mathew. She and her team saw that heavy smokers that quit had a better lung function. They had a lower risk of developing emphysema than the group of light smokers:

“We were surprised to find that those who quit had lower disease risk than the group we identified as stable, low-rate smokers, even though those who quit had a greater lifetime exposure to cigarettes.”

The conclusion Dr. Mathew had was that there is no safe limit on smoking when it comes to lung health:

“Cutting down can be a great first step, but quitting for good is the most effective way to reduce lung disease risk.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere