By Stephen Matthews Health Editor For Mailonline
Published: 23:30 BST, 9 October 2019 | Updated: 23:30 BST, 9 October 2019
Light smokers damage their lungs just as much as addicts who go through two packets of cigarettes daily, a study has found.
Doctors behind the research at Columbia University now say lighting up a few of times each day is 'much riskier than a lot of people think'.
They tested the lung function of 25,000 volunteers, a mixture of smokers and ex-smokers, as well as adults who had never puffed on a cigarette.
Results showed the lung function of heavy smokers – defined as smoking 30 a day – declined at a rate of 11.24ml per year more than non-smokers.
In comparison, the rate of decline was around 7.65ml per year among the lighter smokers, who had fewer than five cigarettes a day.
Doctors behind the research at Columbia University now say lighting up a few of times each day is 'much riskier than a lot of people think'
Experts calculated that light smokers lose the same lung capacity over one year that their heavy smoking counterparts do in nine months.
Lung function is a measure of the amount of air a person can breathe in and out. It declines naturally with age, starting in the 20s.
Lead author Dr Elizabeth Oelsner said: 'Smoking a few cigarettes a day is much riskier than a lot of people think.
'The difference in loss of lung function between someone who smokes five cigarettes a day versus two packs a day is relatively small.
'Everyone should be strongly encouraged to quit smoking, no matter how many cigarettes per day they are