Surgeon General Report Focuses on the Risks of Just One Cigarette

80beatsBy Andrew MosemanDec 11, 2010 2:54 AM


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Smoke is in the air again. Well, smoking, rather. The newest report by the Surgeon General (yes, they're still doing those) came out this week, and the 30th installment of this institutional dispatch ratcheted up the message. It's not just a lot of smoking that will kill you; the Surgeon General's office is now pushing the idea that even one cigarette is one too many—serious damage can start immediately, says the report.

Thursday's report says there's no doubt that tobacco smoke begins poisoning immediately — as more than 7,000 chemicals in each puff rapidly spread through the body to cause cellular damage in nearly every organ. "That one puff on that cigarette could be the one that causes your heart attack," said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. [AP]

It's not exactly a revelation that smoking

is risky and get riskier the more you do it. However, this is the first in the long line of these reports to really press the points that have turned up in recent research, like epigenetic changes

or immediate risk to the cardiovascular system.

The root of the problem is that even small amounts of the chemicals in cigarette smoke cause rapid inflammation in the endothelium, or lining, of blood vessels and in the lungs. Inflammation is increasingly blamed by researchers as a key promoter of blood vessel plaques and clots and in obstructive lung diseases like emphysema. “The evidence on the mechanisms by which smoking causes disease indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” the report concludes. [WebMD Health News]

Benjamin's 700-page report also points the finger at tobacco companies for making their product more addictive.

Recent changes in the design and ingredients in cigarettes have made them more likely to hook first-time users and keep older smokers coming back, Benjamin says. Changes include ammonia added to tobacco, which converts nicotine into a form that gets to the brain faster; filter holes that allow people to inhale smoke more deeply into the lungs; sugar and "moisture enhancers" to reduce the burning sensation of smoking, making it more pleasant, especially for new cigarette users. [USA Today]

The new report from the country's head doc should be another kick in the pants to the nation's struggling smoker-in-chief, President Obama

. Press secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked this week, said he hadn't noticed the President smoking in nine months or so, and said that Obama is resisting the urge to light up despite the stress of the presidency. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner reportedly struggles

with the cancer sticks, too. But neither the Democrat nor the Republican can hold a cigarette to the Rolling Stone. Keith Richards, The Guardian reports

, visited the New York Public Library a couple months ago and left dead flowers and disappointed librarians in his smoke trail.

The guitarist had been given a tour of the premises, finishing with an invitation to sit "backstage", in the office of Marie d'Origny, deputy director of the library's Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. When D'Origny returned a little while later, Richards was smoking a cigarette, the office window open, and according to the library's blog, "between the cold and the smoke, the little orchid never stood a chance". [The Guardian]

Being a true gentleman, though, Keith signed the flower's pot (which he'd been using as an ashtray) before departing. Related Content: 80beats: Study: “Third-Hand Smoke” Sticks Around & Produces New Carcinogens

80beats: Study: CT Scans Could Catch Smokers’ Lung Cancer Early

80beats: Electronic Cigarettes Not a Safe Alternative to Conventional Cigs

80beats: Even Discreet, Conscientious Smokers Leave a Trail of “Third-Hand Smoke”

Image: iStockphoto

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