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Switch to 'Light' Cigarettes Makes Quitting Tougher
Date:11/3/2009

Smokers may mistakenly believe they're 'healthier,' researchers say

TUESDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Experts have long known that "low-tar" and "light" cigarettes aren't any healthier than regular cigarettes, and new research suggests they have another drawback: People who switch to them are less likely to quit, even those who switch specifically because they want to stop smoking.

In fact, "switching to ['light' cigarettes] for any reason is associated with continuing to smoke," said study author Dr. Hilary Tindle, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh's Division of General Internal Medicine.

However, she acknowledged that the research does not prove that switching leads directly to a lower rate of quitting.

According to the authors, an estimated 84 percent of cigarettes sold in the United States are so-called low-tar and low-nicotine, with many of them called "lights." Some smokers may assume they're healthier than other cigarettes, but medical researchers say smokers still suck in about the same level of carcinogens. And research has shown that "lighter" cigarettes don't reduce smoking-related illness and death.

Regardless of what brand they smoke, "the average smoker dies 13 to 14 years earlier than he or she would die if he or she did not smoke," Tindle said.

In the new study, published online Nov. 3 in the journal Tobacco Control, researchers examined the results of a 2003 survey of 30,800 people in the United States who had smoked within the past year. Thirty-eight percent of them had switched to "lighter" cigarettes, with the largest percentage of those -- 26 percent -- saying they'd done so for better flavor. Forty-three percent mentioned one, two or three reasons for switching, with quitting smoking being one of those reasons.

However, those who had switched were 46 percent less likely to have quit smoking.

Why might switchers be more likely
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