Introduction: The aim of this study was to ascertain whether the health of past and current smokers of illicit tobacco (chop-chop) differs from that of smokers of licit tobacco.
Methods: The design was a telephone survey, stratified by state, using computer aided telephone interviewing, with households selected by random digit dialing from the telephone white pages. Setting was all Australian states and territories, 1,621 regular tobacco smokers aged 18+ years. Measures were social and personal characteristics of tobacco smokers, smoking histories and patterns, and health status (SF-8 and disability weights). Binary logistic regression was used to identify variables associated with current and lifetime chop-chop use.
Results: Compared with licit-only tobacco smokers, current users of chop-chop had significantly greater odds of beginning smoking aged <16 years (odds ratio [OR] 1.65, 95% CI = 1.09-2.50), of reporting below-average social functioning (OR 1.61, 95% CI = 1.06-2.44), and of a measurable disability (OR 1.95, 95% CI = 1.08-3.51). Lifetime chop-chop users were relatively likely to be less than 45 years of age (OR 1.82, 95% CI = 1.38-2.39), report below-average mental health (OR 1.61, 95% CI = 1.22-2.13) and above-average bodily pain (OR 1.40, 95% CI = 1.06-1.85), smoke more than 120 cigarettes/week (OR 1.39, 95% CI = 1.06-1.83), and to have begun smoking aged <16 years (OR 1.33, 95% CI = 1.01-1.75).
Discussion: Current and lifetime users of chop-chop report significantly worse health than smokers of licit tobacco. Investigation of how to communicate this finding to current and potential chop-chop smokers is warranted.