No such thing as ‘healthy smoker,’ study says

Denver – Long-term smokers and ex-smokers who pass lung-function tests may not be as disease-free as they believe, a new study suggests.

Researchers from numerous universities and health centers examined nearly 9,000 current and former smokers. The test, which entailed having patients blow as hard and as long as they could into a device, was used to define chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to a press release from National Jewish Health hospital.

About half of the patients passed the test. However, researchers conducted additional evaluations that included lung imaging, walking and quality-of-life tests. Those evaluations showed that about 55 percent of the “disease-free” patients had some form of respiratory-related impairment, including emphysema and shortness of breath.

“We hope these findings will help debunk the myth of the healthy smoker and highlight the importance of smoking prevention and cessation to prevent lung disease and other long-term effects of smoking,” Dr. Elizabeth Regan, assistant professor of medicine at National Jewish Health and the study’s lead author, said in a press release.

The study was published June 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.