Does smoking intensity predict cessation rates? A study of light-intermittent, light-daily, and heavy smokers enrolled in two telephone-based counseling interventions

Katherine Ni, Binhuan Wang, Alissa R. Link, Scott E. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction:Though many interventions have been shown to be effective in helping smokers quit, outcomes may differ between light and heavy smokers. We identified differences in baseline characteristics and post-intervention cessation rates among smoker groups at two safety-net hospitals. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed cessation rates in 1604 patients randomized to either a quitline referral (1-2 telephone counseling sessions) or intensive counseling program (seven telephone sessions). Participants were stratified into light-intermittent (smoked on ≤24 of last 30 days), light-daily (smoked on >24/30 days, 1-9 cigarettes per day [CPD]), or heavy smokers (smoked on >24/30 days, ≥10 CPD). We compared baseline characteristics between smoker types using chi-squared tests, then identified predictors of 30-day abstinence using a multivariable model. Results: Compared with light-daily and light-intermittent smokers, heavy smokers were more likely to be white, male, concomitant e-cigarette users, to have high-risk alcohol use, to have used quitting aids previously, to have current or lifetime substance use (excluding cannabis), and have lower confidence in quitting. However, in multivariable analysis, smoker type was not significantly associated with cessation. The statistically significant predictors of cessation at 6 months were higher confidence in quitting and enrollment in the intensive counseling intervention. Conclusions: Smoker type (light-intermittent, light-daily, or heavy) does not independently predict success in a cessation program. However, smoker type is strongly associated with patients' confidence in quitting, which may be one predictor of cessation. Implications: This study of two safety-net hospitals emphasizes that the number of cigarettes smoked per day does not independently predict smoking cessation. Additionally, heavy smokers are at highest risk for the detrimental health effects of tobacco, yet have lower confidence and motivation to quit. Confidence in quitting may be one factor that affects cessation rates; however, further study is needed to identify which other attributes predict cessation.These findings suggest that smoker type may still be a useful proxy for predicting cessation and that interventions specifically designed for and validated in heavy smokers are needed to better aid these individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-430
Number of pages8
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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