Is just one cigarette okay?

Is it okay to have just an occasional smoke?

There has been a study done that shows even low levels of tobacco smoke exposure pose a risk to lung health. Even just a small amount can trigger potentially hazardous genetic changes.

It is commonly known that secondhand smoke is hazardous. The researcher Ronald Crystal, MD, chief of the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and chair of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. has completed a study to look at the biology and why the effects of smoking are dangerous.

The study that was recently completed demonstrates that even the lowest levels of smoke exposure lead to genetic changes at the cellular level in the lungs. "What this study shows is, if we could detect nicotine in the urine, we could also detect changes in the number of genes turned on and off'' in the cells of the lungs, Crystal tells WebMD.

This backs up the epidemiological evidence that smoke exposure even at low levels is hazardous, says Zab Mosenifar, MD, a pulmonologist, director of the Women's Lung Institute, and executive vice-chair of the department of medicine, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles.

If you are a smoker who only has a few cigarettes a week then you need to be aware that you are still at risk. The study shows that even a small amount of exposure to smoke does create changes at the cellular level in genetically susceptible people. Do you know if you are genetically susceptible? Are you willing to take the chance?