Researchers in the United States (U.S.) have said even those who consider themselves to be casual smokers might be addicted to cigarettes.
Acccording to the findings of a new study published in the ‘American Journal of Preventive Medicine,’ many light smokers, those who smoke one to four cigarettes per day or fewer, meet the criteria for nicotine addiction and should therefore be considered for treatment. Nicotine is a chiral alkaloid that is naturally produced in the nightshade family of plants and is widely used as a stimulant.
As a pharmaceutical drug, it is used for smoking cessation to relieve withdrawal symptoms.
‘The Siasat Daily’ reported: “In the past, some considered that only patients who smoke around 10 cigarettes per day or more were addicted, and I still hear that sometimes,” said Jonathan Foulds, a professor of public health sciences and psychiatry and behavioural health at the Penn State.
“But this study demonstrates that many lighter smokers, even those who do not smoke every day, can be addicted to cigarettes,” said Foulds, a Penn State Cancer Institute researcher.
“It also suggests that we need to be more precise when we ask about cigarette smoking frequency.”
According to Jason Oliver, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences, Duke University, when assessing nicotine addiction – clinically referred to as ‘tobacco use disorder’ – clinicians were encouraged to fully assess the 11 criteria listed in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5).
As a shortcut, he said, clinicians more typically ask smokers how many cigarettes they smoke per day. “Lighter smoking is correctly perceived as less harmful than heavy smoking, but it still carries significant health risks,” Oliver said.
“Medical providers sometimes perceive lighter smokers as not addicted, therefore, not in need of treatment, but this study suggests many of them may have significant difficulty quitting without assistance.”
The researchers at Penn State College of Medicine and the Duke University, both in the U.S., examined an existing data set from the National Institutes of Health, including more than 6,700 smokers who had been fully assessed to find out if they met the DSM-5 criteria for tobacco use disorder.
The team found that 85 per cent of the daily cigarette smokers were addicted to some extent – either mild, moderate, or severe addiction. “Surprisingly, almost two-thirds of those smoking only one to four cigarettes per day were addicted, and around a quarter of those smoking less than weekly were addicted,” Foulds said.