Recent studies have shown that overall smoking is quickly losing popularity points across the United States, as well as across the world. But despite this, researchers have just found that very light smoking is on the rise, especially among young women.
Very light smoking is defined as either smoking very few cigarettes each day, five (5) at most, or mixing up smoking days with non-smoking days. People who practice very light smoking are said to be highly aware of the threats that smoking poses to their health, and they are also known for being less likely than heavy smokers to develop dependence to nicotine.
For their study, researchers from the University of Texas (Austin) looked at more than 9.700 young women with the age between 18 and 25. A fifth of them turned out to be very light smokers. As a general rule, these very light smokers were very likely to have an age somewhere between 18 and 20, have at least some college education if not a bachelor’s degree, and to be part of a minority group.
The overall results showed that 30 percent (30%) of all subjects were current smokers, 28 percent (28%) of them were former smokers, and 41 percent (41%) had never practiced the habit. Twenty percent (20%) of all subjects and 60 percent (60%) of all current smokers were found to be very light smokers.
The experts chose to focus on women for two (2) different reasons. One of them was the threat that the unhealthy habit poses to the reproductive system, the other was the way commercials portray women who smoke – as being highly attractive. The researchers noted that ads aimed at women tend to link smoking to independence, sophistication, attractiveness, and other traits that young women aspire to have.
Because most of the study subjects who practiced very light smoking were still attending college, the researchers theorized that young women might see the unhealthy habit as being part of college parties, and the college scene in general. They even go as far as to say that the college parties that students attend during the weekend actually promote smoking among college-aged women.
An interesting finding is that unlike light smokers or heavy smokers, very light smokers are very much aware of the dangers that smoking poses to their health. But despite this they have the exact same probability of exhibiting signs of depression, signs of recent psychological distress and signs of recent substance abuse.
The working theory is that very light smokers believe that by drastically reducing the number of cigarettes that they smoke, they significantly reduce the health threats generally associated with smoking.
Patricia Folan, director at the Center for Tobacco Control, gave a statement to CBS News informing that very light smokers may not even see themselves as smokers. She stresses that that this is one of the main reasons health practitioners have to remember to ask their patients “When was the last time you used tobacco?”.
If very light smokers or nondaily smokers were asked whether or not they smoked, there’s a good chance that they would answer “no”.
Folan did mention however that if the habit persists, very light smokers and nondaily smokers do become daily smokers or even heavy smokers over time.
The study was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.
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