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Intentionally reduced smoking among untreated general population smokers: prevalence, stability, prediction of smoking behaviour change and differences between subjects choosing either reduction or abstinence

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To compare data from the general population on intentionally reduced smoking and smoking cessation. Design 

Longitudinal observation study. Setting 

Northern German region. Subjects 

Randomly sampled residents aged 18–64 (T1; n = 4075, response rate 70%). Daily cigarette smokers (n = 1520) were followed up after 30 (T2; n = 913) and 36 months (T3; n = 786). Measures 

Self-reported smoking-related and socioeconomic variables. Participants were explicitly asked for reduction attempts (reducing cigarettes per day) and maintenance of reduction, which was defined independently of consumption measures. Findings 

Between T1 and T2, reduction attempts (39%) were more frequent than quit attempts (33%), and according to self-report, reduction was more likely to be maintained for up to 12 months. Smokers maintaining reduction for up to 6 months had reduced their consumption at T3 by 34% compared with T2. Between T1 and T2, the occurrence of both a reduction and a quit attempt was most frequent (22%), followed by subjects exclusively trying to reduce (17%) and subjects exclusively trying to quit (4%). Subjects who exclusively tried to reduce had a significantly increased probability of further reduction attempts at T3 (OR = 4.4, 95% CI 2.0–10.1), while the probability of quit attempts was equal compared with subjects not attempting to reduce or quit (OR = 1.1, 95% CI 0.3–3.2). DSM-IV nicotine dependence was less common in subjects who exclusively tried to reduce. Other smoking-related and socioeconomic variables did not predict whether individuals attempted to reduce or attempted to quit. Conclusions 

A considerable proportion of general population smokers attempt to reduce, and are able to maintain reduction of, cigarette consumption over time. Reduction attempts did not reduce the probability of a subsequent cessation attempt.
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Keywords: General population, smoking cessation, smoking reduction, tobacco harm reduction

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Greifswald, Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, Greifswald and 2: University of Lübeck, Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Research Group S:TEP (Substance Abuse: Treatment, Epidemiology and Prevention), Lübeck, Germany

Publication date: 01 August 2003

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