Tobacco Info

From Tobacco Info No. 9 - April 2012
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Review of new studies by the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit

By Michael Chaiton

The Ontario Tobacco Research Unit (OTRU) is an Ontario-based network that is recognized as a Canadian leader in tobacco control research, monitoring,  evaluation, teaching, training, and as a respected source of science-based information on tobacco control. In each issue of Tobacco Info, OTRU’s Michael Chaiton reviews the latest groundbreaking tobacco studies around the world. For more information, visit

Smoking cessation

Researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine led by Brewer investigated the ability of mindfulness training, a relatively new behavioural treatment mostly used in the treatment of depression and anxiety, as a smoking cessation technique. Among a small sample of 88 heavy smokers, participants were randomized to four weeks of treatment with either mindfulness training or a standard self help program.  At 17 weeks follow up, mindfulness significantly improved rates of abstinence (31 per cent vs. 6 per cent). The study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, suggests that mindfulness holds promise as an improvement over standard cessation treatments.

The importance of smoking cessation prior to surgery was emphasized in a review by Wong and other researchers from the University Health Network in Toronto. Writing in the Canadian Journal of Anaesthesiology, the authors searched the literature for evidence on the risks or benefits of short term cessation prior to surgery. Twenty five articles were found, and overall, abstinence reduced respiratory complications, wound health complications, and other significant effects with at least three or four weeks of abstinence. 

Second-hand smoke

In Archives of Internal Medicine, Weeks et al. examined the impact of secondhand smoke (SHS) on the quality of life of patients with heart failure. Using a cohort study of 205 current non-smokers, the study assessed health-related quality of life including functioning and well-being. Exposure to SHS significantly affected emotional well-being and physical limitations due to physical health problems before and after controlling for other demographic and personal characteristics. Even very low levels of exposure to SHS affects quality of life.

Youth smoking prevalence

In Paediatrics and Child Health, Lemstra and colleagues examined the prevalence of smoking among First Nations youth living on reserves within the Saskatoon Tribal Council.  Among students in grades 5 to 8 who completed a health survey, 26.5 per cent were current smokers.  Those who reported suicidal thoughts and not having a happy home life were more likely to be smokers. This high prevalence of smoking suggests the need for significant prevention and cessation programs.

Social network analysis is a hot topic in tobacco control and other fields of public health. In the Journal of School Health, Seo and Huang reviewed the findings of the impact of social networks on youth smoking behavior. Of the ten reviewed studies, clique effects were found to influence teen cigarette smoking.  The peer selection process, however, generally preceded the intention to smoke or actual smoking initiation.  Adolescents identified as “isolates” — not connected to other members in a social network — were more likely to smoke and engage in other risk-taking behaviours.

Hookah smoking

Our understanding of the scope of hookah use among teenagers is still emerging. Sterling and Mermelstein assessed the rates of hookah smoking among a cohort sample of adolescents who had ever smoked from a hookah. As reported in Nicotine and Tobacco Research, of the 951 American participants, 58.5 per cent reported having used a hookah and 30.2 per cent reported smoking from a hookah at least once in the past thirty days. Those who were male, white, and users of multiple tobacco products were more likely to be current hookah smokers.