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If You’ve Given Up Smoking, Beware These Relapse Risk Factors

When it comes to giving up cigarette smoking, nobody should take lifelong abstinence for granted. Most smokers try to quit a number of times before they succeed. As much as 30 years after quitting, the risk of relapse among former smokers remains at a stunning 10%. That’s why it’s so important to understand risk factors for ex-smokers and to address those behaviors and any underlying issues.

Depression and substance use, for example, have been shown to increase the risk for smoking relapse. But “little is known about the prevalence of these variables among former smokers,” according to a study co-authored by Professor Renee D. Goodwin (Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy). The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, sought to determine trends in depression and in alcohol and marijuana consumption among former smokers.

The study looked at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 67,035 adults characterized as former smokers. Former smokers were defined as individuals who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime, but who had abstained for more than a year before participating in the survey.

Researchers concluded that all three risk factors for resuming cigarette smoking — major episodes of depression, marijuana use, and alcohol misuse — have been increasing over time among ex-smokers. That has implications for public health programs and for clinical interventions. “If people who stop smoking cigarettes substitute other forms of substance use, the overall health benefits of cigarette cessation may be decreased owing to the negative consequences of use of these drugs as well as consequent relapse to smoking cigarettes,” the authors wrote.

Former smokers, they added, “should be continually monitored for relapse to smoking as well as for behaviors that are related to smoking relapse.”

Beyond SUM

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Renee Godwin (Professor and Deputy Director, CUNY Institute for Implementation Science in Population Health , Epidemiology and Biostatistics ) | Profile 1