Light cigarettes won't help you kick butts

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Looking to quit smoking? Don't look to "light" or low-tar cigarettes as a way to lessen your dependency or kick the habit.

A study has found smokers who use light and low-tar cigarettes don't quit, citing a 50% lower chance of giving up smoking.

The research from the University of Pittsburgh, published in the November issue of Tobacco Control, analyzed survey data from about 31,000 smokers who were asked whether they had switched to a milder or low-tar brand of cigarettes and if they had, what were the reason(s) for the switch.

The participants were also asked if they'd tried to give up smoking and if they could currently call themselves nonsmokers. Those who cited switching brands were 58% more likely to have attempted to give up smoking than those who stayed with one brand but were 60% less likely to successfully quit.

Although the authors aren't clear why switching to light cigarettes backfires, they speculate switching brands might change the smoker's behavior in ways that made quitting harder. Another theory is switchers are actually those who have the hardest time kicking the habit. It's also possible "switchers" saw light and low-tar cigarettes as an alternative to quitting.

"Previous research has shown that smokers interpret the term 'light' to mean less toxic, an association that manufacturers have sought to exploit in advertising," the lead author of the study, Dr. Hilary Tindle, said in a news release cited in the Los Angeles Times.

But experts caution smoking is smoking. Regardless of whether you smoke light or regular cigarettes. The study's authors agree, citing "low-tar cigarettes deliver amounts of tar, nicotine and other substances that are comparable with regular cigarettes."

Whatever the reason smokers are switching to lights, it appears many of them are making the change. Light cigarette sales are booming, accounting for 84% of the market.

Ready to kick butts? The National Institutes of Health has a smoking cessation page dedicated to methods proven to help smokers quit.

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