I smoked for more than 44 years and knew I needed to stop. I had
smoking-induced asthma. My parents, both heavy smokers, died of smoking-related
diseases. Secondhand smoke contributed mightily to my four children’s recurring
upper respiratory ailments in their younger years. Yet I continued to
Every winter I dealt with pleurisy attacks from breathing cold air. I had to
lie flat on my back for days, the slightest movement sending knifelike pains
through my chest. After I’d recovered,...
Is there really such a thing? The surprising answer is yes. Some people
really do smoke just a few cigarettes a week. But if you think you're one of
them, think again.
Researchers call them "chippers." There's much to learn from this.
The term is a slang word for heroin users who try to avoid addiction by
infrequent use of small drug doses. It's not a strategy that often works -- for
heroin, or for nicotine, says Elizabeth E. Lloyd-Richardson, PhD, assistant
professor of psychiatry and health behavior at Brown University, Providence,
R.I. She's an expert in adolescent and college-age smoking behavior.
"This is absolutely not a good thing to try," Lloyd-Richardson tells
WebMD. "We certainly know the health risks associated with smoking. At this
point we have not determined a safe amount of smoking. Research also suggests
that particularly with adolescents, they often are kind of lulled into this
sense they can smoke a little in social situations and then can quit when they
go to college or get a job. And we don't actually see that happening that much.
Overall, these smokers end up smoking for many, many more years than they
It's not entirely a bad thing for a person to try to smoke just a little
instead of a lot, says Jack E. Henningfield, PhD, professor of psychiatry at
Johns Hopkins Medical School.
"The good side is if a person is honest, and truly is only smoking in
social situations -- and those are not daily situations -- that person
is at a lower level of dependence," Henningfield tells WebMD. "If
properly motivated, such people should be able to quit completely. And they
should. A person wouldn't go out to their car four times a week and inhale
exhaust fumes. But that is the health equivalent of smoking cigarettes four
times a week."