Are Heavy Smokers Different From Light Smokers?

Smoking cigarettes has become a common habit for millions of people around the globe. The good thing about smoking is that it can make us feel relaxed and calm.

Unfortunately, smoking also causes some serious health problems.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco kills nearly 6 million people every year.

In addition, smokers suffer from other illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes.

Although some studies suggest that heavy smokers are different from light smokers, others show no difference between them. This article aims to provide evidence on whether heavy smokers are different from lighter ones.

So, let’s get into it.

What Is The Difference Between Heavy Smokers And Light Smokers?

The first question you may ask when reading this article is: “What exactly do we mean by ‘heavy smoker’?”

Heavy smokers usually smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day. These tend to be people who have smoked for many years, and cannot go for more than an hour without a cigarette.

They often experience withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit smoking.

Light smokers typically smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes per day. These are people who have been smoking for less time, or people who smoke socially.

These people do not consider themselves to be addicted to tobacco.

In general, heavy smokers will have higher nicotine dependence levels than light smokers. Nicotine dependency refers to how much someone craves nicotine.

A person with high nicotine dependence wants to consume nicotine in order to achieve a certain level of pleasure.

This means that heavy smokers are likely to have higher levels of craving than light smokers.

Am I Addicted To Smoking?

Light smokers do not believe that they are addicted to cigarettes, and only smoke one if they are ‘craving’ one. This could be if they are around other smokers, or sometimes if they have consumed alcohol.

Heavy smokers, on the other hand, will often feel a desire, or a craving, to smoke tobacco. If they don’t smoke, they may experience depression, anxiety, irritability, and anger.

There is a difference between addiction and having a craving, although it can be argued that both are related. Addiction is defined as compulsive use of a substance despite negative consequences.

A craving, on the other hand, is just a feeling of wanting something. It does not necessarily lead to addictive behavior.

However, there is a strong relationship between cravings and addictions.

The Difference Between An Addiction And A Craving


According to the dictionary by Merriam-Webster, the definition of ‘addiction’ is : “a state of being enslaved to a habit or practice.”

A person becomes addicted to tobacco, or drugs in general, because he/she feels compelled to take them over and over again. An addict needs the drug, even though he/she knows that taking it harms him/herself.

An addiction can take a serious tole on a person’s life. For example, a person might lose his/her job, family members, friends, health, etc., due to their addiction.

This is because an individual with an addiction has lost control over his/her actions. If the addiction is severe, they may need treatment to help them overcome it.


A craving, on the other hand, can be defined as a strong desire to perform a particular action.

For example, a person might crave chocolate because he/she likes the taste of chocolate. Craving is caused by a combination of factors including genetics, environment, personality traits, moods, and stress.

There are two types of craving: physiological craving, and psychological craving.

Physiological craving is the physical sensation a person experiences when he/she desires a specific food or drink.

For example, when you want to eat a piece of cake, your body will begin to produce dopamine, which makes you feel happy. Eating the cake will give you a sense of satisfaction.

Psychological craving is the emotional desire for something. It is usually associated with thoughts about the future.

For example, a smoker who is thinking about quitting smoking might feel anxious, depressed, or angry. These feelings will make him/her want to continue smoking.

However, a craving is not as severe as an addiction, and is not considered unhealthy. In fact, some people crave certain foods all day long, but they do not become overweight from eating those foods.

Addictions and cravings do often come hand-in-hand, however. A person with an addiction to smoking will regularly feel a craving for a cigarette, whereas someone with a craving for a cigarette may not necessarily be addicted to smoking.

The Effects That Smoking Has On Your Health

At this point, most people are aware that smoking is horrifically bad for you.

There are so many reasons why smoking is dangerous to your health, and it is actually surprising what can happen to your body if you smoke tobacco long enough.

Smokers have higher risks of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung damage, and premature death. It is the many ingredients inside a cigarette, including nicotine, tar, carbon monoxide, and arsenic, that cause these problems.

A smoker’s lungs become black over time, and eventually stop working properly. The smoker is also at risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), emphysema, and bronchitis.

The effects of smoking also extend beyond the lungs. They include high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, gum diseases, and tooth decay.

A smoker’s mouth is more likely to get cavities than a non-smoker’s, meaning your breath will smell awful. Smelly breath, however, is one of the less worrying side effects of smoking.

Smoking causes the arteries in your brain to harden, making it harder for oxygen to reach your brain cells. As a result, your memory will start to fade, and you will have trouble concentrating.

You will also have difficulty learning new things.

If you are a heavy smoker, there is a good chance that you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. This is because smoking has been shown to increase amyloid plaques in the brain.

Amyloid plaques are made up of proteins, and they are found in Alzheimer’s patients.

In addition, smokers are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and insomnia. This is due to the chemicals in cigarettes affecting neurotransmitters in the brain.

Are Light Smokers At Risk Of Deadly Side Effects From Smoking?

If a person ‘only’ smokes less than 20 cigarettes a day, they may believe that they are less likely to become ill from smoking.

However, light smokers are still at risk of suffering serious illnesses such as lung cancer, COPD, heart disease, and other conditions. Light smokers are also more likely to die younger than non-smokers.

Even smoking three cigarettes a day can significantly raise your chances of getting lung cancer, and other deadly conditions.

Light smokers are also more likely than non-smokers to suffer from mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Again, this is due to the harmful effects of smoking on the brain.

So, if you are a light smoker, but you believe that your habit is less harmful than ‘heavy’ smoking, think again! If you want to take care of your health, and add a couple of years onto your life, you should quit smoking completely.

This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, and/or pipes.

How Many Cigarettes Can Affect A Person’s Body?

As we said previously, you can suffer from deadly side effects even if you smoke less than 5 cigarettes a day. Unfortunately, every cigarette counts, and so does every puff. 

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people who smoked just five cigarettes a day were twice as likely to die prematurely than those who did not smoke at all.

A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) states that people who smoke up to 10 cigarettes a day are 50% more likely to suffer from respiratory illness than non-smokers.

However, when someone smokes 11 or 12 cigarettes a day, their risk increases dramatically.

Each time you take a single puff of a cigarette, your lungs are exposed to thousands of chemicals. These chemicals cause inflammation in the lining of your airways, which leads to coughing fits, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

If you receive thousands of chemicals into your body from only one puff of a cigarette, imagine the damage you are putting yourself through by smoking an entire cigarette, or a whole pack.

The WHO recommends that anyone who wants to protect themselves against these dangers should try to avoid smoking altogether. The best way to do this is to stop smoking completely.

What Makes Cigarettes So Deadly?

The WHO estimates that over 100 different chemicals are present in tobacco smoke. The majority of these chemicals have never been tested for safety before being used in cigarettes.

Some of them are known carcinogens, while others have been linked with various types of cancers.

When you inhale these chemicals, they enter your bloodstream through your lungs. Once there, they travel throughout your body, causing damage to cells and tissues.

They can also affect organs like your liver, kidneys, pancreas, and reproductive system.

Just some of the dangerous chemicals found inside cigarettes include nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide.


While nicotine is considered harmless, it is actually one of the most toxic substances in cigarettes.

Nicotine has been proven to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. It also causes sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches.

Nicotine is also the reason that cigarettes are so addictive, because it binds to receptors on nerve endings in the brain.

When someone lights up a cigarette, he or she experiences a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that triggers pleasure centers in the brain.


Tar is another dangerous chemical found in cigarettes.

When you inhale it, it enters your lungs and travels down your trachea. This causes irritation and swelling in your throat and bronchial tubes.

Once tar gets into your lungs, it begins to stick to the walls of your small air sacs. Over time, this thickens the walls, making it difficult for oxygen to get in and out of your lungs.

Tar contains hundreds of harmful compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs cause cancerous tumors to grow in your lungs, stomach, colon, breast, prostate, bladder, kidney, and skin.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is produced during the combustion process of burning tobacco, and is completely colorless and odorless.

It is extremely poisonous, as it binds to hemoglobin in red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen throughout the body. If too much carbon monoxide builds up in your blood, it will prevent oxygen from entering your body’s cells.

As a result, your muscles begin to tire, and you may experience dizziness, confusion, headache, chest pain, shortness of breath, and even death.

Tobacco companies have tried to make their products safer by adding filters to cigarettes. However, these filters don’t remove all of the toxins in tobacco smoke. In fact, many smokers still end up getting sicker than if they had not smoked at all.

Final Thoughts

So, are light smokers any different to heavy smokers?

Of course, a heavy smoker is more at risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other illnesses, as they smoke a lot more.

As we said previously, every cigarette counts, and the more you smoke, the worse off you’re going to be.

This does not mean that a light smoker gets away with the side effects of smoking, however. Even if you only smoke once a day, it’s still bad for you.

As long as you are inhaling cigarette smoke, you are putting yourself at risk. It’s just not worth it.

We hope that this article helped clear things up for you! 

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