Smoking damages the body in minutes

Damage to the body begins moments after smoking that first cigarette

We all know the long-term health implications of smoking, but a new study suggests that severe damage takes place just moments after that first puff.

Researchers studied the level of chemicals linked to cancer called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in 12 patients. A PAH was added to the cigarettes of the volunteers, which was modified by the body and converted into a chemical linked to cancer and damaging DNA.

‘This study is unique, it is the first to investigate human metabolism of a PAH specifically delivered by inhalation in cigarette smoke, without interference by other sources of exposure such as air pollution or diet,’ says Professor Stephen Hecht, from the University of Minnesota.

Their findings show that the damaging process takes between 15 and 30 minutes. ‘The results reported here should serve as a stark warning to those who are considering starting to smoke cigarettes,’ says Professor Hecht.

‘Almost everybody knows that smoking can cause lung cancer,’ says Martin Dockrell, director of policy and research at anti-smoking charity Ash. ‘The chilling thing about this research is that it shows just how early the very first stages of the process begin – not in 30 years but within 30 minutes of a single cigarette. But it is never too late to quit.’

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