Objectives: A large proportion of smokers erroneously believe that low-nicotine/low-tar cigarettes, also called "light cigarettes" or "lights," reduce health risks and are a rational alternative to smoking cessation. However, the availability of light cigarettes may deter smoking cessation.
Methods: We analyzed the 32374 responses to the US 2000 National Health Interview Survey. Current and former smokers ("ever-smokers") were asked if they had ever used a lower tar and nicotine cigarette to reduce health risks. Multivariable logistic regression identified determinants of lights use and smoking cessation. Results were weighted to reflect the national population.
Results: Of 12285 ever-smokers, 37% (N=4414) reported having used light cigarettes to reduce health risks. Current abstinence was less often reported by ever-smokers who had previously used light cigarettes than by ever-smokers who had never used lights (37% vs 53%, P<.01). Adjusted odds of cessation among ever-smokers who had used light cigarettes relative to those who had never used lights were reduced by 54% (adjusted odds ratio=0.46, 95% confidence interval=0.41, 0.51).
Conclusions: Use of light cigarettes was common and was associated with lower odds of current smoking cessation, validating the concern that smokers may use lights as an alternative to cessation.