New Brunswick, N.J. – In what is believed to be a first of its kind study, a research member at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and colleagues have found that an accelerating trend of smokers relighting cigarettes is related to economic factors, and the practice has implications for tobacco dependence treatment and policy. Results were given at a poster presentation during the 19th Annual Meeting of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco held this past week in Boston. The Cancer Institute of New Jersey is a Center of Excellence of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
In these difficult economic times, increasing numbers of smokers have been smoking fewer cigarettes per day but are relighting the end portion of the cigarette that is typically discarded. Investigators explored this behavior, examining a cross-sectional sample of 496 smokers seeking treatment from the Tobacco Dependence Program, which is supported by The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the UMDNJ-School of Public Health and the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and provides help on quitting tobacco use through treatment, education, research, and advocacy.
What researchers found was that 46 percent of the sample reported relighting cigarettes. This group was found to smoke on average, fewer cigarettes per day – 16 versus 20 - than the group that did not relight.
A reduction in the amount of cigarettes smoked per day may sound positive, but there is more to the story, according to Michael Steinberg, MD, MPH, FACP, a member of The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and director of the Tobacco Dependence Program, who is the senior author of the research. “Despite those engaging in the relighting practice smoking fewer cigarettes, there is no estimated reduction in their exposure to toxins,” says Steinberg. “In fact, smokers who relight cigarettes may be at higher risk of lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. That is something of which policy makers need to be aware,” he notes.
Significantly higher rates of relighting were found among females, African-Americans, and smokers who are divorced, widowed or separated. The behavior was more prevalent among smokers who started at a younger age, have fewer cigarettes per day, smoke menthol cigarettes and wake up at night to smoke. Other factors significantly related to relighting include being unemployed, sick or disabled, or having a high school degree or less.
“While the relighting of cigarettes is a relatively unexplored smoking behavior, it was anticipated that certain economic characteristics, such as lower education and lack of employment, would be related to a higher level of relighting,” says Dr. Steinberg, who is also an associate professor of medicine at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and an associate professor of health education and behavioral science at UMDNJ-School of Public Health. “We were however, surprised that women are more likely to engage in this practice than men. This needs further study,” he adds.
Steinberg and colleagues suggest key components of tobacco dependence treatment that could be affected by these findings include the dosage of medicines prescribed and the identification of unique triggers for the relighting behavior, which could impact counseling and intervention methods.
Along with Steinberg, the author team consists of Mia Hanos Zimmermann, MPH, CTTS; and Donna Richardson, MSW, LCSW, LCADC, CTTS, Tobacco Dependence Program; and Michelle T. Bover-Manderski, MPH, UMDNJ-School of Public Health.
The study is supported by pilot funding through The Cancer Institute of New Jersey.
About The Cancer Institute of New Jersey
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (www.cinj.org) is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. Physician-scientists at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life. To make a tax-deductible gift to support The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 732-235-8614 or visit www.cinjfoundation.org. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheCINJ.
The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center, and Cooper University Hospital. Affiliate Hospitals: CentraState Healthcare System, JFK Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), Somerset Medical Center, The University Hospital/UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School*, and University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. *Academic Affiliate