Posted with permission from The Washington Times

Smoking is as harmful for casual smokers as it is for regular smokers, according to findings of a new study.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Ohio State University, found minimal differences in health risks between regular smokers and casual smokers, with rates differing by 1 or 2 percentage points.

Seventy-six percent of regular smokers have high blood pressure compared to 75 percent who smoke infrequently. Likewise, 55 percent of regular smokers have raised cholesterol compared with 53 percent of casual smokers.

"These results provide strong evidence that smoking, regardless of amount, is an even stronger indicator of cardiovascular risk than previously thought," lead author, Kate Gawlik, wrote to Reuters in an email. "Social smoking is still a major cardiovascular health risk, no amount of smoking is safe."

The 10 percent of participants that identified as social smokers were more likely to be between the ages of 21 and 40, male and Hispanic, the author's wrote. They also had significantly higher risks of having hypertension and elevated cholesterol than non-smokers.

The results were published in early May in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The data came from nearly 40,000 individuals who participated in a Million Hearts cardiovascular screening, a program part of the U.S. Human and Health Services.

Their smoking habits were self-reported, Reuters said, and the participants were only screened for heart-disease risk factors, not for long-term effects.