Heavy smokers who cut back still take in more toxins than light smokers

Dec 13, 2006
Smoking

[B]U of MN study shows heavy smokers compensate for less cigarettes[/B]
University of Minnesota tobacco researchers have found that heavy smokers who reduce their number of daily cigarettes still take in two to three times more total toxins per cigarette than light smokers.

The study, published in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, cites compensatory smoking as the chief reason for the increased exposure despite decreased cigarette use.

"We found that the more that heavy smokers reduced their smoking, the more likely they were to increase their intake of toxicants per cigarette, presumably because they took more frequent puffs or inhaled deeper or longer on each cigarette to compensate for fewer cigarettes smoked," said Dorothy Hatsukami, Ph.D., lead researcher on the study. "This indicates that they are trying to maintain a specific level of nicotine in their bodies."

Hatsukami is a professor and researcher with the University of Minnesota Medical School and Cancer Center. She also directs the University’s Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center.
"Our results are consistent with other studies that show that people who decrease their smoking by 50 percent or more do not experience a comparable reduction in risk for lung cancer because they tend to smoke their fewer cigarettes more intensely," Hatsukami said. "The best way to lower the risk for tobacco-caused premature death is to stop smoking altogether."

The study participants included a group of 64 heavy smokers who had reduced their smoking to levels similar with a group of 62 light smokers. The heavy smokers had smoked on average 26 cigarettes per day before their cigarette reduction. All of the heavy smokers had reduced their smoking by at least 40 percent and smoked five cigarettes per day within six months of enrolling in their study. The light smokers used on average 5.6 cigarettes per day.

Hatsukami and her colleagues created a mathematical formula to calculate the degree of smoking compensation in the heavy smokers compared with the light smokers. They measured a biological marker, total NNAL, which indicates the amount of exposure to the tobacco-specific lung cancer-causing agent NNK.

Their findings showed that the average level of NNAL in the reduced heavy smokers was more than twice that of the light smokers. This was true even when the two groups smoked about the same number of cigarettes per day. The amount of smoking reduction was shown to be a strong predictor of compensatory smoking, with greater cigarette reduction associated with more compensation.

Based on these findings, Hatsukami said, "Heavy smokers would fare better health-wise by quitting smoking rather than decreasing their cigarette use. Although light smokers have lower levels of disease risk than heavy smokers, a low rate of smoking still means increased risk of disease and death compared to non-smokers and quitters."

A previous study by Hatsukami substantiates that fact. The study focused on smoking reduction using nicotine replacement therapies such as gum or patches. It showed that smokers who reduced their cigarette intake by 73 percent only received a 30 percent reduce in carcinogens because of compensatory smoking. Another study indicated that a reduction of 62 percent in tobacco consumption was associated with only a 27 percent reduction in lung cancer risk.

Source: University of Minnesota

Explore further: ER waiting times vary significantly, studies find

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A Closer Look: Your (online) life after death

19 minutes ago

Sure, you have a lot to do today—laundry, bills, dinner—but it's never too early to start planning for your digital afterlife, the fate of your numerous online accounts once you shed this mortal coil.

Web filter lifts block on gay sites

29 minutes ago

A popular online safe-search filter is ending its practice of blocking links to mainstream gay and lesbian advocacy groups for users hoping to avoid obscene sites.

Jindal: Obama hasn't done enough to harness energy

34 minutes ago

The governor of the state of Louisiana, a possible Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday that President Barack Obama's administration has become "science deniers," failing to do enough to harness the nation's energy ...

Research drones launched into Hurricane Edouard

40 minutes ago

U.S. government scientists are launching winged drones into Hurricane Edouard, hoping to collect data that could help forecasters understand what makes some storms strengthen into monsters while others fade away.

Recommended for you

ER waiting times vary significantly, studies find

24 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—When it comes to emergency room waiting times, patients seeking care at larger urban hospitals are likely to spend more time staring down the clock than those seen at smaller or more rural facilities, ...

Internists report considerable EMR-linked time loss

34 minutes ago

(HealthDay)—Use of electronic medical record (EMR) systems is associated with considerable loss of free time per clinic day, according to a research letter published online Sept. 8 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Kids eat better if their parents went to college

59 minutes ago

Children of college-educated parents eat more vegetables and drink less sugar, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia. But it's still not enough, the study goes on to say, as all kids are falling ...

Asia's rising tobacco epidemic

6 hours ago

Smoke-filled bars and packed cancer wards reflect decades of neglect of no-smoking policies in Asia, where both high- and low-income countries are belatedly waking up to a growing tobacco-related health ...

User comments : 0