Nav: Home

As smoking declines, more are likely to quit

June 24, 2015

Smokeless tobacco and, more recently, e-cigarettes have been promoted as a harm reduction strategy for smokers who are "unable or unwilling to quit." The strategy, embraced by both industry and some public health advocates, is based on the assumption that as smoking declines overall, only those who cannot quit will remain. A new study by researchers at UC San Francisco has found just the opposite.

The researchers analyzed survey data spanning 18 years in the United States and six years in the European Union. They found that, contrary to the prevailing assumptions, as the fraction of the population that smoked declined, the remaining smokers actually smoked less and were more likely to quit than to stick with it. The authors said their findings challenge the need to promote new forms of nicotine delivery, such as e-cigarettes, since the smoking population continues to quit smoking as a result of proven policies and interventions.

The paper, titled, "The smoking population in the USA and the EU is softening not hardening," appears online in the June 24, 2015 issue of the journal Tobacco Control.

The concept of harm reduction, first proposed in the 1970s, was based on the theory that as smoking prevalence declines, the remaining "hard core" smokers will be less likely or able to quit smoking, a process called hardening. The study found that the population is actually softening.

"The fact that the smoking population is softening has important implications for public health policy," said senior author Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, the American Legacy Foundation Distinguished Professor of Tobacco Control at UCSF and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. "These results suggest that current tobacco control policies have been leading to softening of the smoking population without the need to promote new recreational nicotine products like e-cigarettes."

The paper reported that for each 1 percent drop in the fraction of the population that smoked, the number of smokers who tried to quit increased by 0.6 percent in the United States and remained stable in Europe. They also showed that the percentage of U.S. smokers who quit increased by 1.13 percent, while daily cigarette consumption among remaining smokers dropped by 0.32 cigarettes in the United States and 0.22 cigarettes in Europe. Overall U.S. cigarette consumption levels dropped over time, while those associations remained stable in Europe.

The findings are significant, said Margarete C. Kulik, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the Center and first author of the paper, because e-cigarettes are not harmless. A recent review of the science on e-cigarettes by UCSF researchers reported that e-cigarette emissions contain both nicotine and other toxins, such as formaldehyde, and are associated with significantly lower odds of quitting cigarettes and with high levels of dual use - smoking both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes - among adults and youth.

The takeaway, Kulik said, is that the current policies have been working, including strong anti-tobacco media, smokefree laws and increased tobacco taxes. As a result, smoking prevalence has declined and the smoking population has become more likely to quit smoking altogether.

"We show that there is no real need to distribute e-cigarettes as part of a tobacco policy package because the smoking population is softening," she said. "Tobacco control policies should continue to move the population down these softening curves rather than changing policies to promote new forms of nicotine delivery, especially ones like e-cigarettes that are very appealing to children."
-end-
This work was supported by the National Cancer Institute (grants CA-113710 and CA-060121).

About UCSF: UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences, as well as a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital San Francisco. Please visit http://www.ucsf.edu.

University of California - San Francisco

Related Smoking Articles:

A case where smoking helped
A mutation in the hemoglobin of a young woman in Germany was found to cause her mild anemia.
No safe level of smoking
People who consistently smoked an average of less than one cigarette per day over their lifetime had a 64 percent higher risk of earlier death than people who never smoked.
Nearly half of women who stop smoking during pregnancy go back to smoking soon after baby is born
A major new review published today by the scientific journal Addiction reveals that in studies testing the effectiveness of stop-smoking support for pregnant women, nearly half (43 percent) of the women who managed to stay off cigarettes during the pregnancy went back to smoking within six months of the birth.
If you want to quit smoking, do it now
Smokers who try to cut down the amount they smoke before stopping are less likely to quit than those who choose to quit all in one go, Oxford University researchers have found.
Cochrane news: Have national smoking bans worked in reducing harms in passive smoking?
The most robust evidence yet, published today in the Cochrane Library, suggests that national smoking legislation does reduce the harms of passive smoking, and particularly risks from heart disease.
Advocating for raising the smoking age to 21
Henry Ford Hospital pulmonologist Daniel Ouellette, M.D., who during his 31-year career in medicine has seen the harmful effects of smoking on his patients, advocates for raising the smoking age to 21.
Stress main cause of smoking after childbirth
Mothers who quit smoking in pregnancy are more likely to light up again after their baby is born if they feel stressed.
As smoking declines, more are likely to quit
Smokeless tobacco and, more recently, e-cigarettes have been promoted as a harm reduction strategy for smokers who are 'unable or unwilling to quit.' The strategy, embraced by both industry and some public health advocates, is based on the assumption that as smoking declines overall, only those who cannot quit will remain.
Smoking around your toddler could be just as bad as smoking while pregnant
Children whose parents smoked when they were toddlers are likely to have a wider waist and a higher BMI by time they reach ten years of age, reveal researchers at the University of Montreal and its affiliated CHU Sainte Justine Research Centre.
Smoking and angioplasty: Not a good combination
Quitting smoking when you have angioplasty is associated with better quality of life and less chest pain.

Related Smoking Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#514 Arctic Energy (Rebroadcast)
This week we're looking at how alternative energy works in the arctic. We speak to Louie Azzolini and Linda Todd from the Arctic Energy Alliance, a non-profit helping communities reduce their energy usage and transition to more affordable and sustainable forms of energy. And the lessons they're learning along the way can help those of us further south.