No level of smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke, safe: researcher

(This report might as well be about pot, not tobacco---makes no difference. Smoke is smoke is toxic fume---there's no such thing as "harmless" toxic fume. Disagree? Then let your children smoke all the pot they want --poster )   
By Neil Haesler, Postmedia News, August 21, 2010
Casual smokers may think a few puffs a week are nothing to worry about, but new research in the United States claims having even an infrequent cigarette, or being exposed to second-hand smoke, could be doing more harm than people believe.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, exposure to low levels of cigarette smoke may put people at risk for lung disease in the future.

"Even at the lowest detectable levels of exposure, we found direct effects on the functioning of genes within the cells lining the airways," said Dr. Ronald Crystal, senior author of the study and chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at New York-Presbyterian/ Weill Cornell and chairman of the department of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

Crystal said in a statement that genes, commonly activated in the cells of heavy smokers, are also turned on an off in those with a much lower level of exposure.

"The genetic effect is much lower than those who are regular smokers, but this does not mean that there are no health consequences," says Crystal.

"Certain genes within the cells lining the airways are very sensitive to tobacco smoke, and changes in the function of these genes are the first evidence of biological disease in the lungs ..."

Crystal and his team tested 121 people including non-smokers, active smokers and "low-exposure smokers." The researchers tested urine samples for markers of smoking to determine which in which category to place participants.

He reported the researchers scanned the entire genome of each individual to determine which genes were activated or deactivated in airway cells.

Crystal said the researchers found there was no level of nicotine that did not also correlate with genetic abnormalities. "This means that no level of smoking, or exposure to second-hand smoke, is safe."

The Canadian Cancer Society, on its website, says the best advice it can offer smokers is to quit. The society says once a smoker quits, health begins to improve. Quitting does not erase the effects of smoking, but does help. According to the society, a body begins to cleanse itself of tobacco within eight hours of quitting. After two days, the senses of smell and taste begin to improve.

Crystal says his team's research shows further support for banning smoking in public places where nonsmokers are at risk.


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