Occasional Cigarette Smoking on the Rise
More Cigarette Smokers Turning to the Occasional Smoke
April 10, 2003 -- The number of cigarette-smoking Americans is holding steady, but more people are opting for the occasional smoke. A new CDC report shows an increasing proportion of cigarette smokers are partaking here and there rather than every day. But how does cutting back really affect your health?
Researchers say cigarette-smoking rates among adults remained relatively stable in most states from 1996 to 2001. But during that time the number of adults who smoked only occasionally increased significantly in 31 states and Washington D.C.
The findings, which appear in the April 11 edition of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, show that an average of 23% of American adults were current cigarette smokers in 2001. Cigarette smoking popularity was highest in Kentucky (31%), Oklahoma (29%), and West Virginia (28%) and lowest in Utah (13%), California (17%), and Massachusetts (20%).
Cigarette smoking rates were much lower in the American territories of the Virgin Islands (10%) and Puerto Rico (12%) but highest in Guam (31%).
Current cigarette smokers were defined as people who reported smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoked every day or some days. "Some day" or occasional cigarette smokers were those who said they smoked only on some days.
During 2001, nearly a quarter of current cigarette smokers said they were occasional smokers. Researchers say that proportion has grown significantly since 1996 in most states. The average number of some-day cigarette smokers was also slightly higher among men than women and decreased with age.
Researchers say the report shows that although smoking rates have not declined significantly, the pattern of cigarette smoking has changed. They say the shift might be due in part to the increased price of cigarettes as well as smoking bans in public places.
The report shows states that have enacted strict tobacco control measures and public-smoking bans, such as California, have seen not only decreases in the number of cigarette smokers but substantial increases in the proportion of current smokers who are some-day smokers. For example, the proportion of occasional cigarette smokers in California grew from 26% in 1992 to more than 36% in 1999.
But researchers say smoking less isn't necessarily any healthier. A recent study found that reducing the number of cigarettes people smoke per day without quitting did not lower the risk of death from smoking-related diseases compared with heavy cigarette smokers.
"Because the only safe alternative to smoking is cessation, interventions should target all smokers to help them quit completely," they write.
The report was based on data collected by the 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a random telephone survey of American adults.
SOURCE: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC, April 11, 2003.