A population study of low-rate smokers: quitting history and instability over time

Health Psychol. 2003 May;22(3):245-52. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.22.3.245.


This study used 1 longitudinal and 2 cross-seconal population surveys to compare stability of low-rate daily smokers (less than 5 cigarettes per day) with other daily smokers and occasional smokers. Few low-rate smokers maintained consumption level; 36% retained smoking status after 20 months, compared with 82% and 44% for regular daily and occasional smokers, respectively. In a dynamic process, established smokers quit smoking and/or modified (decreased or increased) consumption. Low-rate and occasional smokers quit at higher rates than regular daily smokers (odds ratios 3:1) but were replenished by new members, many converted from regular daily smoker. The overall trend is an increasing proportion of low-consumption smokers while smoking prevalence declines. The dynamic process has implications for tobacco control efforts and for addiction theory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / epidemiology
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / psychology*