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Today's Smokers More Addicted to Nicotine
Date:10/28/2008

The less-hooked may have already quit, leaving 'hard-core' group behind, experts say

TUESDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Almost 75 percent of current smokers trying to kick the habit are now highly nicotine-dependent, which is a 15-year high, a new study finds.

In fact, nicotine dependence has risen 12 percent from 1989 to 2006, and the number of highly nicotine-dependent people has gone up 32 percent, according to research expected to be presented Tuesday at the American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting, in Philadelphia.

Nicotine dependence can vary from smoker to smoker, experts noted.

"My clinical perception has been that over the last five years, patients that I am seeing require much more intensive treatment because tobacco dependence is more severe," said lead researcher Dr. David P. Sachs, from the Palo Alto Center for Pulmonary Disease Prevention in California.

Studies have shown that the more nicotine-dependent an individual is, the less effective standard treatment will be, Sachs said. "These people will suffer severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms, and they will be more likely to relapse back to cigarette use," he explained.

For the study, Sachs' team compared the degree of nicotine dependence between 1989 and 2006 in three groups of smokers, a total of 630 in all, who enrolled in smoking cessation programs.

Nicotine dependence was measured using the Fagerstrom Tolerance Questionnaire, which assesses nicotine dependence on a scale of 0 to 11 points.

Over 15 years, scores on the questionnaire increased by 12 percent, and the number of people with scores of 7 to 11 went up 32 percent. Overall, the proportion of people who were highly nicotine-dependent rose from 55.5 percent to 73 percent over the study period, Sachs' group found.

Sachs believes that it's the most nicotine-dependent smokers who are now showing up at quit-smoking programs. "If the
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