Since 1965 it has been know that moderate smokers fare better health-wise than do non-smokers. This huge study by Vital and Health Statistics shows just that.

The study is based on data obtained with interviews conducted between July 1964 and June 1965 amongst 42,000 US families for a total of 134,000 people over 17 years of age.

The study does not report data on mortality as it is aimed only at living people; consequently it does not report on disease such as lung cancer – a disease with an average survival rate of one year,  thus only rare cases could have been found in the short time available and amongst the interviewed population. The study is limited to chronic and long-term disease such as cardiovascular disease, acute disease such as influenza, and short-term well-being.

The study reports that smokers in general are subject to a greater frequency of chronic, long-term disease, and short-term acute conditions. However, it also reports that those who smoke less that 10 cigarettes a day experience a lower frequency of chronic, long-term disease. An exception could be for bronchitis/emphysema, but for this and for short-term acute conditions, the risks variations for the lass then 10 cigarettes a day smokers were within the limits of epidemiological variation. The risk for absenteeism and short-term disability is also reduced.

As a cautionary note, the difficulties in the interpretation of epidemiological data of this kind are very many. In the epidemiological praxis the up and down  risk variations observed in this study for less then 10 cigarettes a day smokers can only bring to the conclusion that the comprehensive risk for these smokers is not dissimilar from that of non smokers. In general, therefore, the study shows that, for the subjects that have been interviewed, smoking less than 10 cigarettes a day does not imply risk increase for the verified conditions next to non smokers.

As is it for all multifactorial epidemiology, the data presented does not carry an implicit of explicit guarantee of reliable truth, but simply offers data that are not easy to find and that could be used by the attentive reader to form an opinion on the variable risks attributed to cigarettes by biased propaganda sources.

One important point that needs to be highlighted is that this study was performed in 1964-65, when the average cigarette was considerably stronger and “heavier” than what it is today and, for the majority, unfiltered. That brings to the logical conclusion that today’s cigarettes are even less risky.

The study comes with a large umber of tables. Below we offer a summation of the critical data concerning the apparent advantages of those who smoke less than 10 old-style cigarettes a day.

Table A page 8 and table D page 11

Ratios between non smokers and smokers as to the frequency of chronic disease.

Sex and number of
chronic disease
Non smokersSmokers over 40
Smokers less than 10 cigarettes/day
One or more disease1.001.350.93
Three or more diseases1.001.730.88
All chronic disease1.001.640.92
Cardiovascular disease1.00*0.93
Bronchitis/emphysema1.003.3 **1.10
One or more disease1.001.420.95
Three or more diseases1.002.430.82
All chronic disease1.002.000.88
Cardiovascular disease1.00*0.65
Bronchitis/emphysema1.006.5 **1.60 **

* Data not reported
** From Figure 5 page13

Table E, page 15

Ratios between non smokers and smokers as to the frequency of acute disease.

Sex and acute diseaseNon smokersSmokers over 21-40
Smokers of less than
10 cigarettes/ day
Acute disease1.001.231.02
Acute disease1.001.311.18

Table F, page 17

Ratios between non smokers and smokers as to the frequency of short-term disability.

Sex and type
of disability
Non smokersSmokers over 21-40
Smokers of less than
10 cigarettes/ day
Limited activity1.001.791.01
Absence from work1.001.650.87
Days in bed1.001.490.98
Limited activity1.002.440.99
Absence from work1.002.741.09
Days in bed1.002.630.92

In summation, the core conclusions of this study are fundamental and square with common sense.

  • Moderation – not abstention – is the key to good health in smoking and any other behaviour.
  • The ideological assertion that tobacco is harmful in any quantity and form is false.
  • Smoking in moderation either does not affect health, or it is beneficial.
  • The safe quantity of (strong, old fashion) cigarettes to smoke is 10, today it is probably more.
  • The development of safer cigarettes that, even when heavily smoked in large quantities, bring the quantity of substances assumed below the level of 10 old-fashioned cigarettes is essential.
  • Abolitionism policies instead of product risk reduction policies are damaging public health because they deprive people from the benefits of smoking.
  • The current all-out war on smoking is both fraudulent and wrong.

This kind of hard evidence is also confired by a later study (1989-90 National Health Survey. Lifestyle and Health Australia) that showed that non smokers fare worse than smokers, and ex-smokers worse than non smokers. For this reason this line of reliable mass- investication has been suppressed to favour the antismoking belief that smoking is an absolute evil.

Author: Ronald W. Wilson


Published: Public Health Service publication No. 1000-Series 10, No. 34

Funding: Public Health Service