Occasional Smoking and Addiction

Who is Considered an Occasional Smoker?

An occasional smoker, also known as a "light" smoker is anyone who smokes less than 10 cigarettes per day. This also includes individuals who do not smoke everyday. There has been an increase in occasional or light smokers due to smoking restrictions and price increases. Approximately 25.4 percent smoke 10 or fewer cigarettes per day, and 11.6 percent smoke 5 or fewer cigarettes per day.

Occasional Smoking and Health Risks

  • There is no safe amount of smoking.
  • Tobacco contains nicotine, which is an addictive drug.
  • Smoking causes all kinds of lung problems as well as cancer, heart disease, reproductive issues and many other health problems.
  • Your risk for cancer increases with the number of cigarettes you smoke and the number of years you smoke.

Occasional Smoking and Nicotine Addiction

  • Signs of nicotine addiction can appear in young people within weeks or days after they first begin smoking occasionally, and well before they become daily smokers.
  • Your brain continues to develop during the teenage years. Evidence suggests this may increase young people's risk for developing nicotine addiction.
  • Smoking may be more addictive if someone starts during adolescence. The younger you are when you begin smoking, the more likely you are to become strongly addicted to nicotine.
  • Individuals who begin using tobacco at an early age are more likely to smoke more heavily as adults and to smoke for more years.
  • Young people tend to underestimate how addictive smoking can be.

Occasional Smoking and Quitting

  • Occasional smokers tend to believe that they can quit smoking at any time.
  • Counseling interventions have been shown to be effective in helping occasional or light smokers quit.

References

Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. May 2008.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004. Available from: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2004/index.htm