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13 December 2006
No Benefit In Heavy Smokers Cutting Back

Smokers who cut back on the number of cigarettes that they have in a day are not necessarily reducing their toxin intake, according to a new University of Minnesota study. The study, appearing in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, shows that by adopting a behavior called "compensatory smoking," heavy smokers still manage to intake a dangerous level of toxins.

Compensatory smoking can involve taking heavier draws on a cigarette, or holding the smoke in the lungs for longer, which leads to 2 - 3 times the normal intake of toxins per cigarette when compared with light smokers. According to lead author Dorothy K. Hatsukami, compensatory smoking occurs when smokers attempt to maintain prior levels of nicotine in their system.

"These results are consistent with other studies that show that people who decrease their smoking by 50 percent or more don't experience a comparable reduction in risk for lung cancer because they tend to smoke their fewer cigarettes more intensely," says Hatsukami, director of the University's Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center in Minneapolis. "The best way to lower the risk for premature death is to stop smoking altogether."

By comparing biological markers in groups of light and heavy smokers who had cut back, researchers found that the level of toxins in heavy smokers were twice that of light smokers, even when both groups smoked the same amount of cigarettes. This finding indicated that heavy smokers would be much better off if they just gave up smoking altogether, but also added that any smoking constituted a health risk. "Although light smokers have lower levels of disease risk than heavy smokers, a low rate of smoking still confers increased risk compared to non-smokers and quitters," explains Hatsukami.

Source: American Association for Cancer Research

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