OSU Researchers Surveys Under Studied Group: Social Smokers

Social smokers’ risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol is identical to those who light up every day, new research has found. Social smokers were defined as those who do not smoke cigarettes daily, but who smoke in certain social situations regularly.

Social smokers in the study were more likely to be younger (between 21 and 40 years old), male and Hispanic. After the researchers took into account demographic and biometric differences between the smokers and social smokers in the study, they found no difference in the risk of hypertension or high cholesterol.

This large, nationally representative study is the first to look at blood pressure and cholesterol in social smokers. More than 10 percent of 39,555 people surveyed said they were social smokers, meaning they didn’t smoke every day. That’s on top of the 17 percent who called themselves current smokers.

Among current and social smokers (after researchers adjusted for differences in factors including demographics and obesity), about 75 percent had high blood pressure and roughly 54 percent had high cholesterol.

The good news about this study is there’s plenty of room for intervention and prevention of future death and disease, the researchers said.

OSU Research Suggest Smoking Bans Help Some Smokers Quit

A new national study shows for the first time how smoking bans in cities, states and counties led young people living in those areas to give up, or never take up, the use of cigarettes.

In particular, the study found that young males who were light smokers before a smoking ban was instituted in their area were more likely to give up cigarettes after a ban went into effect. Smokers who lived in areas where there was never a ban weren’t likely to drop their cigarette habit. Smoking bans did not seem to affect tobacco use among women, although their use was already below that of men.

While other studies have focused on how smoking bans affect smoking rates in areas where they are instituted, this is the first national study to show how the bans affect individual smokers. Results showed that the probability of a young man smoking in the last 30 days was 19 percent for those living in an area without a ban, but only 13 percent for those who live in an area with a ban. For women, the probability was the same (11 percent) regardless of where they lived.

The study was published in the September 2016 issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Ohio State Professor Studies Local Level Anti-Tobacco Policy Effectiveness

A first-of-its-kind national study found that bans worked best at limiting smoking among more casual users: Those who smoked less than a pack a day. Heavy taxes worked best with those who smoked more than a pack a day. Another key finding of the study was that combining smoking bans with high taxes didn’t reduce overall smoking rates in a city more than either of the policies by itself.

Michael Vuolo is the lead author of the study and assistant professor of sociology at The Ohio State University. The study was published online Dec. 21, 2015 in the American Journal of Public Health. Vuolo conducted the study with Brian Kelly and Joy Kadowaki of Purdue University.

The researchers found big changes in both bans and taxes from 2004 to 2011. The percentage living in a city with a comprehensive ban increased from 14.9 percent to 58.7 percent during that time, while average taxes increased from 81 cents to $1.65 per pack.

The cities with the highest rates of smoking were those that had no smoking bans and low or no taxes on cigarettes.

Results showed that those residing in cities with bans were 21 percent less likely to currently smoke at all when compared to those who lived in cities without bans. But taxes did not have a significant effect on casual smokers.

By contrast, those who smoked more than a pack a day were primarily deterred, not by the bans, but by the economic costs – in other words, higher taxes.