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Heavy smoking or light smoking - is there a difference?

Heavy Smoking or Light Smoking -- Is There a Difference?

Although the percentage of smokers in the United States has declined during the past thirty years, the proportion of heavy smokers has increased. (Heavy smoking is usually defined as using twenty-five cigarettes or more a day.)

The consequence of these statistics is that a particular segment of the population is at a higher risk for cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative illnesses -- in addition to the peril posed to nonsmokers who inhale the polluted air.

Because use of tobacco could have an addictive base, with nicotine serving as a form of drug dependence, the question of dependency arises. Are light smokers just as severely addicted as heavy users?

An interesting study investigated this particular phenomenon to determine whether high or low levels made a difference in the addictive process (E.R. Gritz and M.E. Jarvik who reported to the American Psychological Association, 81st Annual Convention). Comparing forty-eight hours of denial between two groups, light and heavy smokers, the researchers found no difference in craving.

Other studies have indicated that a heavy smoker's needs are linked to internal signals and in response to social interaction. Light smokers decreased their smoking during such times.

In the matter of giving up the habit, light smokers were found to have fewer problems; heavy smokers experienced stronger withdrawal problems. Smoking produces an increase in energy expenditure, which may account for the increased strain upon the heavy smokers.

It is widely believed that women have greater difficulty quitting smoking than men because they have been reported to suffer more severe withdrawal symptoms. This belief has been challenged by the work of Dr. M.A. Orkandi whose book Women and Health (Haworth) reports extensive research that fails to find a difference in dependency among light and heavy users of cigarettes.
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Mar 22, 1989
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