Light smokers who have only ONE cigarette a day can be ‘nicotine addicted’, the study claims
- U.S. experts studied data on 6,700 smokers who were assessed for tobacco use disorder
- They found that two-thirds of those who smoked only 1-4 times a day were addicted
- However, more severe addictions were more common in more regular smokers
- The findings underscore the importance of properly assessing all smokers, they said
Even people who light up only once a day – and consider themselves smokers – can be addicted to nicotine and need treatment, the study says.
U.S. experts studied more than 6,700 smokers who were assessed for addiction – finding that two-thirds of those who smoked 1-4 cigarettes a day were addicted.
However, the team noted that the frequency of more serious addictions appears to increase with the number of cigarettes smoked daily.
They concluded, emphasizing the importance of properly assessing the risk of addiction in all smokers – including those with more leisurely habits.
Even those people who smoke only once a day – and consider themselves mere smokers – can be addicted to nicotine and need treatment, the study says
‘In the past, some people thought that addicts were just patients who smoked about 10 cigarettes a day or more, and I still hear that sometimes,’ said paper author and public health researcher Jonathan Foulds of Penn State University.
“But this research shows that many smokers who smoke, even those who don’t smoke every day, can be addicted to cigarettes.”
“It also suggests we need to be more precise when we ask about the frequency of cigarette smoking.”
When assessing people for nicotine addiction – or, as it is formally known, for tobacco use disorder – doctors should use the 11-part criteria listed in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM-5, in brief.
However, explained the author of the paper and behavioral scientist from Duke University Jason Oliver, clinicians often use the question “How many cigarettes do you smoke a day?” as a diagnostic shortcut – but this can prove deceptive.
‘Lighter smoking is properly perceived as less harmful than heavy smoking, but it still carries significant health risks,’ said Professor Oliver.
‘Drug providers sometimes perceive smokers who smoke harder as if they are not addicted and therefore do not need treatment – but this study suggests that many of them may have significant difficulty quitting without help.’
In their study, the researchers analyzed an existing set of data collected by the National Institutes of Health – which included information on more than 6,700 smokers who were fully assessed for nicotine addition according to the DSM-5 criteria.
They found that 85 percent of everyday cigarette smokers were somewhat addicted – whether it was mild, moderate or severe.
“Surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of those who smoke only one to four cigarettes a day were addicted – and about a quarter of smokers less than a week were addicted,” said Dr. Foulds.
“Surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of those who smoke only one to four cigarettes a day were addicted – and about a quarter of those who smoke less than a week were addicted,” said paper author and public health researcher Jonathan Foulds of Penn State University.
Researchers, however, found that the severity of cigarette addiction seems to be smoking more and more often.
In fact, 35 percent of those who smoke between one and four cigarettes a day have a moderate or severe addiction, compared to, and 74 percent of those who smoke more than 21 cigarettes a day.
‘Previous research has shown that smokers who are not daily smokers are more likely to quit daily smokers,’ Oliver said.
‘Clinicians should ask about all smoking behaviors, including non-smoking on a daily basis, as such smokers still need treatment to successfully quit smoking.
‘However, it is unclear to what extent existing interventions are effective for light smokers. Ongoing efforts to identify optimal cessation approaches for this population remain an important direction for future research. ‘
The full findings of the study were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.