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A growing number of smokers are relighting cigarettes, a trend that is related to economic factors, according to researchers at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

They found more smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes per day, but are relighting the ends of the cigarette. They reported at the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco Annual Meeting that the practice has implications for tobacco dependence treatment and policy, reports.

They studied 496 smokers who sought help in quitting. The researchers found 46 percent reported relighting cigarettes. While this group smoked an average of 16 cigarettes per day, compared with 20 for those who did not relight, they were not exposed to fewer toxins, according to study author Michael Steinberg, MD, MPH. “In fact, smokers who relight cigarettes may be at higher risk of lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. That is something of which policy makers need to be aware,” he noted in a news release.

Relighting rates were higher among women, African Americans and smokers who were separated, divorced or widowed. Those who were unemployed, sick or disabled, or had a high school degree or less were also more likely to relight cigarettes.

“While the relighting of cigarettes is a relatively unexplored smoking behavior, it was anticipated that certain economic characteristics, such as lower education and lack of employment, would be related to a higher level of relighting,” Dr. Steinberg said. “We were however, surprised that women are more likely to engage in this practice than men. This needs further study.”

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