Past and present smokers endure worse pain than people who have never lit up

Chemicals in cigarettes can damage tissue, leading to pain. [Photo: Getty]

Past and present smokers live with more pain than those who have never taken up the habit, research suggests.

Scientists from University College London asked more than 220,000 people to rank their level of daily discomfort.

Existing or ex-smokers scored up to two points higher than those who have always abstained, the results show.

Although unclear why this occurs, the chemicals in cigarettes can bring about permanent tissue damage, leading to pain.

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“The key finding is the former smokers still see that effect of elevated pain,” study author Dr Olga Perski told the BBC.

“Even if you quit after regular smoking, that could potentially have lasting effects on pain, it is a really good incentive to quit as soon as possible.”

In England alone, 14.4% of adults were classed as “current smokers” last year, NHS Digital data shows.

This is compared to 13.7% in the US, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cigarettes are responsible for around one in five deaths in the US, while 16m Americans live with a smoking-related disease.

READ MORE: Shocking video shows the black lungs of a chain smoker

To understand its impact on pain, the scientists asked the participants about their discomfort.

This was converted into a score of zero-to-100, with a higher number indicating more severe pain.

Results, published in the journal Addictive Behaviors, suggest existing and ex-smokers endure more discomfort.

The scientists were surprised to find the youngest age group, 16-to-34, suffered most.

Another theory why this occurs is the hormonal changes that come about from cigarette chemicals.

This centres around the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which controls hormones linked to pain.

It may be, however, that people who smoke are at greater risk of discomfort to start off with.

Neurotic personality traits, for example, have been linked to both smoking and pain.

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The stop-smoking charity Ash argues cigarettes cause, or worsen, “almost every medical condition”.

Smoking causes seven out of 10 (70%) cases of lung cancer, according to the NHS.

It is also linked to 11 other types of tumours, including those of the stomach, bladder and pancreas.

Smoking may also trigger heart disease, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, impotence and infertility.