…Quit trying to hook our teens on smoking – President Barack Obama’s signature on a bill to grant the FDA authority to regulate tobacco was a historic step that could eliminate tobacco use in the US by 2047. To save themselves, tobacco companies are still trying desperately to hook teens on smoking. They know that major genetic risk for lifelong nicotine dependence can be suppressed if young people avoid daily smoking before age 17.

The tobacco industry knows exactly what makes social smokers tick. Researchers want to use that once-secret information to help them quit. Researcher Stanton Glantz says, “Tobacco companies probably spent hundreds of millions of dollars for this research. They indentified this group as a large, stable part of the tobacco market way before public health did.”

One of the things they’ve learned is that part of the social smoker’s self-image is the belief that they are “in control.” When trying to quit, they restrict themselves, by smoking just on weekends or at parties, or maybe limiting the habit to a few cigarettes a day. They rarely smoke alone and typically do not smoke around non-smokers. Before they light up, they ask people if they mind. Most believe they are not addicted to nicotine and that they are immune to the health risks, such as lung cancer, heart disease, of “real” smokers.

Rebecca Schane says that’s wishful thinking: “It’s like, you’re just a little bit pregnant. Either you smoke or you don’t. With any smoking, there’s risk.” Social smoking rates are on the rise and this group now makes up more than a quarter of all smokers.

Researcher Joseph DiFranza says, “It’s no surprise that the tobacco industry is interested in social smokers. They want everyone who has lungs to smoke. They leave no stone unturned.” One problem is that “public health guidelines do not incorporate treatment for nondaily smokers beyond advising them to quit.” Current anti-smoking programs target chronic daily smokers and don’t work for social smokers.

Schane says, “Standard therapies may not be appropriate for these people. Social smokers may not be physically addicted. They can go for periods without craving smoking. Nondaily smokers, who are similar to social smokers, do better with counseling than nicotine replacement.”

Glantz agrees: “We need to do a better job of identifying these smokers. The tobacco companies are.”

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