Objective: To determine which smokers report cigarette fading, how much they fade, when fading leads to quitting, and, if not, whether it can be maintained.
Methods: Subjects were 1,682 adult smokers interviewed by telephone in 1990 and 1992 as part of the California Tobacco Survey. Data from three timepoints in the same subjects were compared. At Time 1 (one year before the baseline survey), all respondents were daily smokers who recalled their average daily cigarette consumption retrospectively at baseline. At Time 2 (baseline survey), all respondents were current smokers who provided concurrent data on their average daily cigarette consumption. At Time 3 (follow-up), smoking status and current cigarette consumption among nonabstinent respondents were assessed.
Results: Nearly 18% of smokers reduced consumption between Times 1 and 2. The mean reduction was 13 cigarettes per day. Only moderate to heavy smokers who reduced consumption to below 15 cigarettes per day were more likely to be in cessation at Time 3 (24.9% versus 5.8%, respectively). The cessation rate for moderate to heavy smokers that became light smokers by baseline was similar to that for smokers who were already light smokers 1 year before baseline. Continuing smokers who reduced consumption between Times 1 and 2 maintained a mean reduction of 11.4 cigarettes per day.
Conclusions: Cigarette fading increases cessation among moderate to heavy smokers who become light smokers.