Healthcare Blog

Switching To Low Tar Cigarettes Halves Chance Of Quitting Smoking

April 12, 2017

Smokers who switched to a low tar, "lite" or "mild" brand of cigarette have about a 50% lower chance of giving up smoking altogether, suggests research published ahead of print in Tobacco Control.

So-called low tar cigarettes now make up around 84% of US market share, but when smoked, these cigarettes deliver amounts of tar, nicotine, and other substances that are comparable with "regular" cigarettes.

The findings on quitting among switchers are based on almost 31,000 US smokers who were quizzed in 2003 about whether they had switched to a milder/low tar brand, and their reasons for doing so.

They were also asked if they had attempted to give up smoking altogether during the previous 12 months, and whether they had managed to keep it up.

The total sample included more than 29,000 people who were current smokers and almost 2,000 who had given up for at least 90 days.

In all, 12,000 people (38%) had switched to a lighter brand, with one in four citing flavour as the primary reason. Previous research has suggested that smokers interpret reductions in flavour strength as reductions in harm.

But almost one in five (18%) said they had switched for a combination of better flavour, wanting to smoke a less harmful cigarette, and the intention of giving up smoking altogether.

In all, 43% offered reasons for switching that included a desire to give up smoking altogether.

Those who switched brands were 58% more likely to have attempted to give up smoking between 2002 and 2003 than those who stuck with their brand, but the "switchers" who attempted to quit were actually 60% less likely to be successful.

And those who switched for reasons that included the intention to give up smoking had the lowest chances of actually doing so.

In the entire study group - including those who tried to quit and those who did not - the overall odds of giving up smoking were 46% lower among those who switched to a "lighter" cigarette for any reason, than they were among those who stuck with their brand.

Despite the apparent greater motivation to give up, the authors suggest that switching may actually ingrain smoking behaviour, therefore cutting the chances of succeeding.

It may also be that those smokers who find it the most difficult to give up, imagine a lighter brand is better for their health and an acceptable alternative to giving up completely.

Tobacco Control