Smoking More Harmful Than Thought, Says New Study

By May Wilkerson 02/17/15

Researchers linked smoking cigarettes to five more diseases.

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Everyone knows smoking is bad for you, but turns out the deadly habit is even worse than previously thought.

A new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, links cigarettes to five additional diseases, adding 60,000 deaths a year to the previously known death toll from tobacco.

The study followed nearly a million people above the age of 55, tracking their diseases, health issues and mortality over the course of 10 years. Researchers found that in addition to the known risks of lung cancer, artery disease, heart attacks, lung disease and stroke, smoking also contributed to an increased risk of kidney disease, infection, intestinal disease, and other illnesses not previously linked to tobacco.

Correlation does not prove causation, so “this study is not considered as strong as experiments in which participants are assigned at random to treatments or placebos and then compared,” says the New York Times. But it would be unethical to force people to smoke for a study. Either way, the study suggests that the health impact of tobacco is significantly broader than previously thought.

Though fewer young people are picking up the habit in recent years, 21% of men and 15% of women still smoke, or about 42 million Americans in total, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research shows that smokers are two to three times more likely to die prematurely than people who never smoke, and more than 20 times likely to die of lung cancer.

“The smoking epidemic is still ongoing, and there is a need to evaluate how smoking is hurting us as a society, to support clinicians and policy making in public health,” said Brian D. Carter, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society who wrote an article about the study. “It’s not a done story.”

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.