It turns out that an early-morning cigarette could be much worse for your health than if you light up later in the day. Researchers at the Penn State College of Medicine discovered that people who smoke their first cigarette within 30 to 60 minutes of waking up are more likely to get cancer than people who wait longer. People who smoked within the first 30 minutes after waking were nearly twice as likely to develop lung cancer than people who waited an hour.
Experts said that this finding made sense, given that the first cigarette of the day can be a barometer for how addicted the smoker is. ”A lot of heavily addicted smokers overnight go into withdrawal,” explained Michael Fiore, director of the University of Wisconsin Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention. ”By the time they wake up, their blood nicotine level has fallen substantially, and their neuroreceptors are screaming, ‘You gotta feed me.’”
Other researchers suggested that people who smoked early in the morning inhaled more smoke into their lungs. This intense smoking could raise the exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
Unfortunately, as Eric Hayden observes over at the Atlantic, people who are used to early-morning cigarettes may find it difficult to kick the habit. He cites a review of studies from 2007 which explained that people who smoked first thing in the morning were more likely to see that first cigarette as “heavy, uninterrupted and automatic smoking.” The earlier the cigarette, the more difficult it would be for the smoker to quit.
So perhaps this study isn’t so much of a surprise. But the risks are disturbing, especially when they’re set out so explicitly. If this isn’t a good reason to push back the morning cigarette — or, better yet, try to quit smoking — I don’t know what is.
Photo from Marco Gomes via flickr.