Nicotine dependence remains prevalent despite recent declines in cigarette use

Jun 24, 2009

Despite recent declines in cigarette use in the U.S., nicotine dependence has remained steady among adults and has actually increased among some groups. The finding by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health suggests that public health initiatives have been far more successful in preventing Americans from taking up smoking than in persuading hard-core smokers to stop. The study is available online in the American Journal of Public Health and will be published in the August 2009 issue.

Previous studies have found that since the 1964 U.S. Surgeon General report, the number of people who smoke has declined. The Mailman School of Public Health study takes this research a step further by distinguishing occasional smokers from . "Regular, heavy cigarette use frequently characterizes nicotine dependence and is the pattern of use thought to be the most detrimental to health and longevity, but it has not been addressed in previous estimates of the decline in smoking prevalence," says Renee Goodwin, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study. "Rather, earlier research mainly addressed tobacco use or cigarette smoking per se rather than examining the frequency and duration of cigarette use in detail."

The new study finds not only that the number of nicotine-addicted Americans has held steady over the past several decades, but also that the proportion of cigarette smokers who are addicted to nicotine nowadays is greater than in previous generations. Dr. Goodwin cites a possible explanation for this latter finding. She suggests that fewer people are taking up smoking, perhaps because of anti-cigarette campaigns, leaving the ranks of current smokers filled with the nicotine dependent.

Another factor that has changed dramatically in the epidemiology of tobacco consumption and dependence over the past several decades is gender. Smoking has been far more common among men than among women for most of the past forty years, though recent evidence suggests that the gender gap has narrowed, and the current study finds increases in smoking among women in several recent generations.

It is also thought that socioeconomic status is a factor in cigarette use. The current study finds that younger women living in poverty had the highest rates of nicotine dependence, compared with older generations, and those not living in poverty. This suggests that despite increases in taxes and smoking costs, those most vulnerable are still heavily affected.

"Passage of this month's law governing the regulation of tobacco products and its focus on preventing smoking initiation among children is important and timely as our findings suggest that the number of people who still smoke is considerable," observes Dr. Goodwin. "Hopefully this legislation will help reduce the number addicted to nicotine in future generations since never smoking is the only sure way to prevent the development of nicotine dependence."
"Given the mounting evidence that nicotine dependence plays a crucial role in patterns, there is no question that future studies on curbing cigarette use need to take
into account," says Dr. Goodwin.

Source: Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health (news : web)

Explore further: CDC: Almost everyone needs a flu shot

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Avoid the hookah and save your teeth

Nov 08, 2005

Researchers say smoking a hookah is becoming increasingly trendy item in Mediterranean restaurants, cafes and bars -- but it can damage your teeth.

New study demonstrates nicotine's role in smoking behavior

Feb 27, 2007

Tobacco dependence is the leading cause of mortality in Canada. Although most smokers express a desire to stop smoking, only a small number are able to succeed. A new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health ...

Initial reaction to nicotine can dictate addiction

Oct 01, 2007

Following up on studies that have indicated the speed with which adolescents can get hooked on cigarettes, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have conducted the first study to determine why some ...

Recommended for you

CDC: Almost everyone needs a flu shot

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Less than half of all Americans got a flu shot last year, so U.S. health officials on Thursday urged that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated for the coming flu season. "It's really unfortunate ...

Can you train your brain to crave healthy foods?

5 hours ago

The mere sight of a slice of gooey chocolate cake, a cheesy pizza, or a sizzling burger can drive us to eat these foods. In terms of evolution we show preference for high calorie foods as they are an important ...

What doctors say to LGBT teens matters

7 hours ago

When doctors speak to teens about sex and LGBT issues, only about 3 percent of them are doing so in a way that encourages LGBT teens to discuss their sexuality, and Purdue University researchers say other doctors can learn ...

User comments : 0