Prognosis: In Smoking, Research Finds, Cutting Back Won’t Do

Smokers who say they just can’t quit are sometimes told to at least cut down. But even if they reduce their intake by half or more, they are unlikely to see much benefit, a new study reports.

The study, which appears in the journal Tobacco Control, followed the health of more than 50,000 Norwegian smokers over more than two decades.

The subjects, men and women ages 20 to 49 at the start of the research in the mid-1970s, were screened once at the start of their involvement and again after 3 to 13 years. A smaller group was screened a third time. On average, the researchers kept track of each participant for about 20 years.

The researchers found that those who reduced their cigarette intake by 50 percent or more did not have a better mortality rate from all causes of death than heavier smokers did. They did not even do better when it came to diseases specifically associated with smoking.

“In health education and patient counseling,” the researchers wrote, “it may give people false expectations to advise that reduction in consumptions is associated with reduction in harm.”

They did say that cutting back probably had value as an interim step to quitting smoking.

It is unclear why those who cut back did not seem to be healthier. One possibility, the study said, is that to compensate for the cigarettes they give up, smokers inhale smoke more deeply and smoke more of each cigarette.

Source:The New York Times

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