WEDNESDAY, Oct. 11, 2017 More “hardcore” smokers than ever are trying to extinguish their bad habit, new research suggests.
“Even though they smoke more than the general population, smokers with high psychological distress have been smoking less and trying to quit more, as the overall level of smoking has decreased,” said study author Margarete Kulik. She’s a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
“This shows that with effective tobacco control policies, even hardcore smokers will soften over time,” Kulik said in a UCSF news release.
For the study, researchers analyzed health data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Almost 120,000 smokers were asked about their daily cigarette habit and any attempts to quit smoking for at least one day over the past 12 months.
The survey also included information collected on the participants’ mental state. The researchers then divided the smokers into three groups based on their mental distress: no distress, moderate distress and serious psychological distress.
From 1997 to 2015, smokers in all three groups smoked significantly fewer cigarettes. The number of cigarettes those in the “no distress” group smoked each day fell from 16 to 11. Daily cigarette consumption also dropped among the smokers in the “high distress” group, from 19.6 to 14.5.
In all three groups, the proportion of smokers trying to quit increased, but the increase was highest among the smokers with the most mental distress.
“The finding that there were more quit attempts among smokers with the highest levels of distress might reflect the fact that although these smokers are motivated and willing to quit, they may need more help quitting successfully,” said senior study author Stanton Glantz, director of the tobacco control center at UCSF.
“This indicates that we should be encouraging our mental health providers to treat tobacco dependence along with other problems,” he added.
“Contrary to popular belief, treating nicotine addiction does not complicate the treatment of other substance abuse or mental health issues, and in fact has been shown to improve outcomes among people in substance abuse treatment and recovery,” Glantz said. “Even smokers with the greatest psychological distress can be reached and helped to quit.”
The researchers added that their findings show that tobacco control policies are influencing even hardcore smokers, challenging the tobacco industry’s view that the only way to control tobacco use is to provide less harmful products, such as e-cigarettes.
The findings were published on Oct. 10 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on smoking and tobacco use.