Smoking reduction update…
Is cutting down a waste of time?
July 5, 2013
Newspapers today are reporting on a new study from Scottish researchers on smoking reduction. Today’s Sun says ‘Cutting down on cigs is a waste of time’. But only last month headlines said ‘Smokers urged to ‘cut down’ rather than quit’ (from The Telegraph). What’s going on?
First, let’s take a look at what the new Scottish study from Carole Hart and colleagues found. They examined two separate groups (cohorts) of men and women from central Scotland, just over 5,000 smokers in total, who were middle-aged in the 1970s. These cohort members were questioned twice, once in the (roughly) early-to-mid 1970s, and once again in the mid-to-late 1970s. At these screenings, information on their smoking status, and a wide range of other health data was gathered.
These people were then followed-up till 2010, and their dates and causes of death were obtained. The resulting mortality rates (basically, ‘death rates’) were compared, adjusting for other potentially relevant factors. They found that, while study participants who reported stopping smoking completely at their second screening in the late 70s had much better mortality outcomes than those who continued smoking, no such consistent pattern was seen for ‘reducers’.
In one sub-group (heavier smokers who reported reduction) in the smaller of the two cohorts, the researchers did find quite large improvements in mortality outcomes, but this wasn’t seen consistently in rest of the study data. The researchers contrast their findings with a similar recent study from Israel that found more consistent evidence of improved mortality outcomes in reducers.
Read More and see graphs.
Jeremy Irons debates smoking with Stephen Sackur and wins
Smoking indoors around people without their consent is improper, but smoking outside isn’t really harming anyone.
Journalist Stephen Sackur does make stupid remarks sometimes, but Jeremy Irons response was first-rate.