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New Analysis: Light and Intermittent Smokers Overlooked in Traditional Tobacco Research

March Issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research Analyzes Trends, Impact of Light Cigarette Use

WASHINGTON, March 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To date, the majority of research conducted about tobacco use has been related to the impact of moderate to heavy smoking. The March 2009 issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research is focused on examining light and intermittent smoking. Several of the nation's preeminent public health experts and researchers worked together to uncover trends related to light smokers, those who smoke less than 10-15 cigarettes per day and intermittent or occasional smokers, those who may not smoke every day.

According to the CDC, one-fifth of U.S. smokers are intermittent or occasional smokers. Yet, existing research and public health efforts have targeted moderate to heavy smokers. There is no safe level of cigarette smoke, though, and for this reason, the American Legacy Foundation, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research co-funded Light and Intermittent Smoking, a special issue of Nicotine and Tobacco Research.

The issue includes 13 original, peer-reviewed articles that stemmed from recommendations made at a meeting of 29 collaborative scientists held in 2005. This unprecedented meeting yielded a concerted effort by the public health community to reduce light and intermittent smoking, and this compilation of research is the beginning of curbing that trend and helping to avoid the 1 billion projected tobacco-related deaths in the 21st century.

"This special issue is chapter one of a very important volume in the overall fight against tobacco," said Cheryl G. Healton, Dr. P.H., president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. "We are yet to fully understand the best ways to help these light smokers quit, a very important goal, as they represent an increasing percentage of the smoking population."

The articles examine:

Smoking Patterns - Light and intermittent smoking is more prevalent among African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian American and Pacific Islanders compared with Whites. Those aged 20-34 were more likely than adults aged 35-50 to smoke five or fewer cigarettes per day; male smokers were significantly less likely to have light daily consumption; smokers with lower levels of education were more likely to consume a pack or more per day compared to those who had graduated from college.

Trends - Light and intermittent adolescents are an unstable group of smokers. Data indicate that among 12th grade light and intermittent smokers who were followed over time, less than half were found to still be light and intermittent smokers two years post-high school. Another study that examined U.S. trends in smoking from 1991-2002 found that among very light smokers, smoking prevalence declined at all levels among Americans who are more than 30 years old, while light and intermittent smoking between those aged 18-29 increased. Another interesting trend examined the association between light smoking and tobacco control policies. Young adults in states with strong policies were more likely to be light smokers, and there was a higher prevalence of light and intermittent smoking in young people with smoke-free homes

Addiction - Two studies in the issue examine the relationship between cigarette consumption and addiction. Adolescent very light smokers (less than five cigarettes per day), demonstrate no significant withdrawal symptoms after 24 hours without nicotine, while those adolescents consuming four to five cigarettes per day had subjective symptoms of withdrawal. A sub-group of Hispanic/Latino smokers who were studied demonstrated that, despite significant differences on dependence and withdrawal, low-level smoking was not associated with abstinence.

Health Effects - A study of college students found that smokers who smoked five or more days per month had a higher occurrence of shortness of breath than nonsmokers.

"In order to adequately address the issue of tobacco use in this country, we can not overlook light and intermittent smokers," said Dr. Pebbles Fagan, Health Scientist, Tobacco Research Branch, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences at the National Cancer Institute. "Research suggests an impending global pandemic of light smokers, and we must take what this paper outlines and move the agenda forward in advancing research of the full spectrum of smokers."

The American Legacy Foundation(R) is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation's programs include truth(R), a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EX(R), an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use; and a nationally-renowned program of outreach to priority populations. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit

Nicotine & Tobacco Research is one of the world's few peer-reviewed journals devoted exclusively to the study of nicotine and tobacco. It is published by Oxford Journals, a division of Oxford University Press, on behalf of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT). For more information, please visit: Please acknowledge the journal as source in any articles.

SOURCE American Legacy Foundation
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