The old view of cigarette smoking was that it damaged the body little by little over a long period of time. Taking a closer look, we have found that cigarette damage acts faster than that. A few minutes in a smoky room can trigger a heart attack, and this effect was probably present in more than half of heart attacks until recently. And now we find that smoking one cigarette creates an instant cancer risk. At BBC News: “Smoking ‘causes damage in minutes’, US experts claim.”
The new study focused on just one of the thousands of cigarette hazards, a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). In every person studied, within 30 minutes the PAH from the cigarette broke down into other chemicals, including one known to damage DNA and cause cancer.