Examining differences between light and heavy smokers in a sample of technical college students
De Araujo, Vanessa Alencar
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This study examined differences between light and heavy smokers in race/ethnicity, gender, use of other tobacco products (chewing tobacco and cigars), reasons for smoking, smoking contexts and propensity for smoking cessation. Data were obtained from the Texas Trade and Technical School Survey designed to examine individual and contextual influences on the tobacco use and cessation of a sample of East Texas vocational/technical students. Current analyses included 209 current smokers categorized into two groups based on the number of cigarettes smoked per day: light (≤ 10 cigarettes per day) and heavy smokers (≥ 11 cigarettes per day). Of the current smokers, 49.5% were female; 74% were European American, 14.8% were African American, 6.1% were Hispanic/Latino, and the remainder reported another race/ethnicity. Light smokers constituted 60.3% of the sample. Light smokers were more likely than heavy smokers to be of non-European American race/ethnicity (p = 0.001), to have used chewing tobacco for more than ten days in the past 30 days (19.7% versus 2.6%), and to report a desire to quit smoking on their own (p < 0.05). Heavy smokers (81.3%) were slightly (p = 0.056) more likely to report ever having attempted to quit smoking than light smokers (69.2%), and significantly more likely to use medication, such as the patch, as a resource for quitting (p < 0.05). As expected, heavy smokers were more addicted to cigarettes than light smokers as reflected in significant differences between the two groups in the following statements: " If I don't smoke, I shake" (p < 0.01), and "Out of a habit" (p < 0.001), showing a greater level of dependence among heavy smokers when compared to light smokers. Moreover, in comparison to light smokers, heavy smokers were more likely to smoke when feeling stressed and depressed (p < 0.001), at parties, and at bars (p < 0.05). Examining such subgroups variations in vocational/technical students will contribute to a better understanding of the smoking behaviors of this population, and will allow tailoring of health promotion programs that include tobacco prevention and cessation to a population of individuals at elevated risk for cigarette consumption and health related illnesses. This study fills the void in the literature of light and heavy smokers, and expands previous research on vocational/technical students.