Social smokers – those who smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes a day – are eight times more likely to die of lung cancer compared to non-smokers, and twice as likely to die of lung disease.

The 17-year-long study from Columbia University in New York revealed that the risk for those who smoke fewer than 10 cigarettes a day is not substantially lower than those who smoke 20 a day.

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The study of 18,730 people found that 0.6% of non-smokers died of lung cancer, while 4.7% of social smokers and 12.9% of 20-a-day smokers died from the illness.

Research head Dr Pallavi Balte said: “You might think that if you smoke a few cigarettes a day you are avoiding most of the risk. But our findings show social smoking is disproportionately harmful.”

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