Very Light Smokers Think It Isn’t Bad for Them

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Photo: Jamie Grill/Tetra Images/Corbis

While heavy smoking is down in the U.S., very light or "casual" smokingdefined as five or fewer cigs daily — is on the rise. Researchers from University of Texas at Austin decided to look into the motivation behind lighting up a few times per day (or, ahem, once a week).

For their study, they reviewed a sample of nearly 10,000 women ages 18 to 25 from the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. These women were asked whether they'd had some or all of a cigarette in the past month. If they had, they were considered current smokers; if they hadn't, but they used to smoke, they were labeled former smokers. They found that 62 percent of current smokers identified as very light smokers, and 71 percent of those women didn't smoke every day.

While casual smokers were more likely than heavier smokers to acknowledge the health risks of lighting up, unsurprisingly, they thought their sporadic habit was less bad. Hate to burst their bubble, but there's no safe level of cigarette use. It doesn't help when celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow say things like, "It's what makes life interesting, finding the balance between cigarettes and tofu." The good news is that very light smokers were less likely than other groups to report nicotine dependence and studies have shown they're more likely to plan to quit and believe they can do it. So, do it.