Here is my smoking pattern:

I never smoke (I tried younger but I didn't feel any pleasure from it) until I started my new job 3 years ago. This job is highly demanding and stressful at times, so once a semester, I find myself buying a package of about 20 cigarettes and smoking them one after the other in one or two evenings. After that, I don't feel any need of cigarettes for the next 6 months.

What are the risks of this kind of consumption?

I understand that a regular consumption, even of a small quantity of tobacco, is really harmful for my body. On the other side, I think that for an overdose of cigarettes, you need a really huge quantity of nicotine.


1 Answer 1


According to the NHS, on average, every 15 cigarettes will cause one genetic mutation.

Usually that mutation will do nothing sinister, but every one has the potential to develop into cancer.

Mutations aside, lots of nasty things happen immediately when you smoke. The filter doesn't catch much of the filth, which very rapidly enters your bloodstream. The body does many things to deal with toxins, and has an emergency last resort technique for dealing with scenarios where a large volume of toxins enters the system in one go, and can't be removed fast enough. The toxins are locked up in fat cells around the liver, to effectively take them out of circulation. If you lead a very healthy lifestyle, and maintain an ideal weight, then over time, those stored toxins will be released gradually and disposed of via natural detoxification processes. If you don't have a calorie deficit though, then your body never needs to empty its fat reserves, so that toxic fit just stays around your liver indefinitely.

All that said, I doubt that 20 cigarettes every few months will do noticeable harm, except for making you stink. Stress can cause harm, if not physically then certainly mentally. Perhaps a bigger risk though is the thought habit you are developing of justifying smoking by blaming stress. As an ex-smoker, I know this cycle too well. There is a risk that you might gradually increase the frequency of smoking, each time blaming stressful situations.

Perhaps instead of wondering how much harm your smoking is doing, perhaps it would be better to tackle the underlying stress, or find an alternative stress relief.

  • 2
    You've made a lot of assertions of fact in your answer but you provide no sources to support those assertions. Health.SE is a little different from most other SE sites in that we expect all assertions to be supported with credible scientific sources.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 19:44
  • With respect, the very first few words of my answer are "according to the NHS".
    – user6847
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 19:53
  • 2
    As @CareyGregory said, sources for these types of assertions are expected here, just saying "according to X" isn't all that reliable. As for that number of mutations you mention, for example, the source is this study: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2880489
    – YviDe
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 21:14
  • 1
    Oh, and welcome to Health.SE! To clarify a bit more, there's also a lit of assertions in the second paragraph, like what toxins are you talking about? Why do you think those are stored in fat tissue instead of being eliminated from the body? What effect could this have (the OP is asking what the risks are, so I assume they are interested in that)? Dont get me wrong, this looks like the beginning of a good answer! It just needs some support for your assertions and maybe a few more specifics.
    – YviDe
    Commented Mar 27, 2016 at 21:28
  • 1
    @Taladris It is, which is why I suggested how to improve it and didn't downvote it.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 4:35

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