Social Smokers: Turning the Tables on Big Tobacco

June 16, 2009

The tobacco industry knows exactly what makes social smokers tick. Now, researchers want to use that once-secret information to help them quit.

Focusing on the effects of secondhand smoke, not on personal health, might be a better tactic with social smokers, who tend to deny that they are at-risk or even smokers, but do care about others.

The landmark state litigation against the — known as the Master Settlement Agreement — forced tobacco companies to open confidential industry documents to the public; so far, they have released 10 million documents spanning more than 80 years.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco mined this mother lode of information, focusing on social smokers. Their study appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Tobacco companies probably spent hundreds of millions of dollars for this research,” said co-author Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., at the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research. “They indentified this group as a large, stable part of the tobacco market way before public health did.”

What else did the cigarette manufacturers learn?

Part of the social smoker’s self-image is the belief that they are “in control.” They restrict themselves, by just on weekends or at parties, or maybe limiting the habit to a few cigarettes a day. They rarely smoke alone and typically do not smoke around non-smokers. Before they light up, they ask people if they “mind.”

Most believe they are not addicted to nicotine and that they are immune to the health risks — lung cancer, heart disease — of “real” smokers.

That is wishful thinking, according to study co-author Rebecca Schane, M.D. “It’s like, ‘you’re not just a little bit pregnant.’ Either you smoke or you don’t. With any smoking, there’s risk.”

According to the authors, social smoking rates are on the rise and this group now makes up more than a quarter of all smokers.

“It’s no surprise that the tobacco industry is interested in social smokers — they want everyone who has lungs to smoke,” said Joseph DiFranza, M.D., a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “They leave no stone unturned.”

However, Schane points out that “Public health guidelines do not incorporate treatment for nondaily smokers beyond ‘Advise them to quit.’”

Current smoking cessation programs target chronic daily smokers and likely would not work for social smokers, according to the study authors.

“Standard therapies may not be appropriate for these people. Social smokers may not be physically addicted,” Schane said. “They can go for periods without craving smoking. Nondaily smokers, who are similar to social smokers, do better with counseling than nicotine replacement.”

But, she added, the jury is still out on what treatment advice to give to clinicians working with nondaily and social smokers, as drug studies rarely include those groups.

“[Social] smokers routinely have been excluded from smoking cessation interventions for decades, but there’s no reason to suggest that the same interventions wouldn’t work for them,” DiFranza said.

Clinicians should dig deeper, Schane said, by asking patients about smoking on a daily, weekly or social basis, rather than as a yes-no question.

“We need to do a better job of identifying these smokers,” Glantz said. “The tobacco companies are.”

Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine (news : web)

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not rated yet Jun 17, 2009
Just ban tobacco and be done with it.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2009
I like smoking even though I know the 'risks'
I like drinking even though I know the risks.
I like mountain climbing even though I know the risks
Do you get my point??
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2009
I wish to remain unidentified by this nanny state that has become a major thorn in smokers and non-smokers lives. I do not want nor need intervention, it is MY body, not yours, and you are NOT welcome to it. Butt out!
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2009
I would think anyone with some sense would be just screaming about the waste of money involved in this, just for big pharma to profit from marketing their own brand of nicotine. Imagine AA giving out alcohol to combat alcoholism! What a farce!
1 / 5 (1) Jun 17, 2009
Please lets us have a FAIR LEVEL PLAYING FIELD Let us see the millions of dollars that have been misdirected from research, into anti smoking lobbying efforts. Let us see where the American Cancer Society (California Division) reports to US IRS they spent like $4,738 in a year ( FY 2004-2005) for lobbying in California while the California Secretary of State reports one check alone was for $637,000! Violation of law by the so called honorable American Cancer Society. ACS IRS 990 forms are public record so is the California Secretary of States data! Is truth allowed here?
not rated yet Jun 20, 2009
I never met a 'social smoker'. Is this another industry-generated myth to persuade addicts that if they manage to cut back for a few days, now and again, then they arent addicted? It's like research into 'pleasurable effects' of the drug, as if any net 'pleasure' can compete with the relief from withdrawal. 'People cannot tell the difference between pleasure and relief from pain.' -Epicurus. Smokers are always in a continuous and increasing state of pain- except for right after that last smoke.
not rated yet Jun 29, 2009
With smoking down from a high of 54% in the 30's to 24% or less in 2008. Smoking clearly not the major cause of Cancer and Heart Disease which have at least 300 possible causes.

The CDC says 23% die from Lung Cancer but only 16% of those are smokers and 32% die of Heart Disease and 18% of those are smokers. Looks like smoking isn't that big a killer when you consider those smokers could easily have had other contributing factors that weren't accounted for. I always have doubts when ever Stanton Glantz is connected to a smoking study. He has been the poster boy for Big Pharma and most if not all of his studies are funded by them. He has recieved grants in the millions from the makers of Smoking Cessation Products. His studies have been said to be biased and lacking in any scientific proof.

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