Smoking harms your health no matter what time of day you light up. But for those who make cigarettes part of their morning routine, the risks are even greater. A recent study in the medical journal Cancer found that those who smoke soon after waking up in the morning may put themselves at higher risk for cancer than other smokers.

New Research
Scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and Penn State College of Medicine studied 4,775 smokers with lung cancer and 2835 smokers without cancer. The study showed that people who smoked within the first half-hour of waking were 1.79 times more likely to develop lung cancer as those who waited at least an hour before lighting up. Those who waited between 31 and 60 minutes were 1.42 times more likely to develop this cancer than those who waited one hour. A separate study focused on head and neck cancer. It compared 1055 smokers with head and neck cancer with 795 cancer-free smokers. Smokers who had their first cigarette in the first 30 minutes of waking in the morning were 59% more likely to have developed a cancerous head or neck tumor than those who waited longer than an hour to smoke. Those who smoked between 31 and 60 minutes had a 42 percent higher risk than those who waited one hour.

What do the findings mean?
The findings suggest that if you give in to the desire to smoke first thing in the morning, you may be at increased risk for lung, head, and neck cancer. Professor Robert West, director of Tobacco Studies at the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, University College London, proposes that smokers who light up soon after waking tend to smoke each cigarette more intensively, taking more smoke into their lungs, and exposing them to higher levels of cancer-causing chemicals. Lead study researcher Dr. Joshua Muscat suggests that early morning smokers have higher levels of nicotine and other toxins from cigarettes in their bodies and that they may be more addicted to nicotine than smokers who wait longer to have their first cigarette.

A combination of genetic and personal factors may cause certain people to have a higher dependence on nicotine. If you're an early morning smoker, you may want to talk to your doctor about starting a smoking cessation program targeting morning smoking to help cut your risk. Excluding your first smoke of the day can get you one step closer to quitting altogether, which should be your larger goal.

How to Quit
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that smoking harms nearly every organ in your body. It causes many diseases and reduces your general health. The length of time you wait before you smoke your first cigarette of the day can indicate increased nicotine dependence, smoke intake, and risk of multiple types of cancers. While delaying your first smoke of the day is a great first step, the goal is to quit smoking altogether. When you quit smoking, you'll experience immediate benefits, as well as long-term ones. Here are some tips on how to quit smoking for good.

Avoid any amount and every type of cigarette.
According to the CDC, even occasional smoking is harmful and cigarettes labeled "light," "filtered," or "low-tar" are just as dangerous and addictive as regular cigarettes.

Put in the effort.
It's not easy to quit smoking because nicotine is addictive. A large part of "getting to quitting" is knowing why you need to. Once you've made up your mind, make proper preparations to take the challenges head on.

Remember you're not alone.
The CDC reports that nearly half of all adult smokers have successfully quit smoking. If they can do it, you can too!