A new study has found that while smoking is down in the United States over all, smoking “very lightly” (five or fewer cigarettes a day) has increased slightly, especially among young women. The study, conducted at the University of Austin, Texas, looked at women specifically because of the effects on reproductive health and the “attractive way” in which advertisers portray smoking in women. Looking at 9,600 women between the ages of 18 and 25, they found that most “very light” smokers were between 18 and 20, had some college education, and were from a minority group. The study suggested these women might see smoking as part of the “college party scene” and named them as a good target group for prevention efforts, since they are more aware of the damaging effects of smoking and were less likely to report dependence than heavy smokers. However, many of these light smokers become regular smokers over time, and think they are avoiding risk by smoking less. Nevertheless, pulmonary specialist Dr. Len Horovitz says that the risks remain significant, even for those who stay light smokers. “Even light smoking can triple the lifetime risk of heart disease,” Horovitz said, adding that “more efforts need to be directed at this cohort of emerging young women who smoke lightly.”
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