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Switching to 'Light' Cigarettes May Lower Chances of Quitting

Study suggests many switch brands with a view to giving up but don't

THURSDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Smokers who switch to so-called low-tar or 'lighter' brands of cigarettes often do so with the intention to quit, but switching actually reduces the likelihood that they will subsequently quit smoking, according to a study published online Nov. 4 in Tobacco Control.

Hilary A. Tindle, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues conducted a study of 30,800 people who had ever smoked, of whom 12,009 (38 percent) had switched brands citing harm reduction, quitting smoking, or flavor as the reason.

While 18 percent of switchers cited all three reasons, 26 percent cited flavor alone, and 51 percent of switchers made an attempt to quit, compared to 41 percent of non-switching smokers, the researchers discovered. However, only 9 percent of switchers had recently quit, compared to 17 percent of the other smokers, and the overall quitting rate was 4.3 percent, versus 7 percent for the non-switching smokers, the investigators found.

"Our analyses support the position that switching should be discouraged and that switching as a step towards quitting should be particularly discouraged," the authors write. "As neither 'light' cigarettes nor any other kind of cigarettes have demonstrated convincing clinical evidence of reduced harm, smokers should be encouraged to stop smoking, rather than just change what cigarettes they smoke."

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