Two recent studies undertaken by the Penn State College of Medicine published in the American Cancer Society’s journal called Cancer found that smokers who had their first cigarettes shortly after awakening in the morning had an increased risk of developing lung, neck, and head cancers. These studies looked at nicotine dependence in smokers which is determined in part by the amount of time before a smoker lights a cigarette after waking up in the morning. These early morning smokers have a higher level of nicotine and therefore may be more addicted to smoking than those smokers who don’t light up until later in the morning.
By focusing more attention on these smokers with intensive and effective smoking cessation programs, some of the cases of head, neck, and lung cancers may be avoided. Also, waiting longer to smoke the first cigarette of the day would probably mean that less cigarettes would be smoked during the day. Dependence is measured by how much is smoked and how long after awakening the first cigarette is smoked.
The studies found that smokers who smoked within the first 30 minutes after waking up were 80% more likely to develop lung cancer. Those whose first cigarette was between 31 minutes and 60 minutes after waking up were 30% more likely to develop lung cancer.
The risk for head and neck cancers increased by more than 40% for smokers who smoked their first cigarette of the day between 31 minutes and 60 minutes of waking up. The risk was increased to 60% for those whose first cigarette was within 30 minutes of waking up.
The body rids itself of one-half of the nicotine ingested within 2 hours. Therefore, when a smoker sleeps from 6 to 8 hours without smoking, almost all of the nicotine ingested over the last day has been removed from the body. Because nicotine is highly addictive, the brain receptors involved in nicotine dependence are seeking nicotine and those smokers who are most highly addicted tend to smoke cigarettes earlier and more intensely (inhaling more deeply, holding the inhaled smoke longer, and smoking more of each cigarette) after waking up, as well as smoking more cigarettes during the day.
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