Smokers are relighting used cigarette butts in an apparent response to tough
economic times, according to a new study.
Although this tactic may save money for smokers, it doesn't benefit their
health. Researchers cautioned that relighting cigarettes does not reduce
exposure to harmful chemicals.
They said the trend could affect treatment strategies for tobacco dependence,
such as medication dosages and counselling.
"Despite those engaging in the relighting practice smoking fewer cigarettes,
there is no estimated reduction in their exposure to toxins," senior study
author Michael Steinberg, director of the Tobacco Dependence Program at the
Cancer Institute of New Jersey, said in an institute news release.
"In fact, smokers who relight cigarettes may be at higher risk of lung cancer
and chronic bronchitis. That is something of which policymakers need to be
The study involved about 500 smokers seeking treatment from the Tobacco
Dependence Program. Of these, 46% admitted to relighting cigarettes. This group
smoked 16 cigarettes daily on average. Meanwhile, smokers who did not relight
cigarettes smoked an average of 20 cigarettes each day.
What the study found
Women were more likely to relight cigarettes. Higher rates of relighting were
also found among black people and those who were divorced, widowed or
Those who started smoking at an early age, smoked menthol cigarettes or who
said they wake up to smoke during the night are also more likely to relight
The behaviour was also linked to unemployment, illness, disability and having
less than a high school diploma.
"While the relighting of cigarettes is a relatively unexplored smoking
behaviour, it was anticipated that certain economic characteristics, such as
lower education and lack of employment, would be related to a higher level of
relighting," Steinberg said.
"We were, however, surprised that women are more likely to engage in this
practice than men. This needs further study."
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Research
on Nicotine and Tobacco in Boston. Data and conclusions should be viewed as
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about the health
effects of cigarette smoking.
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