Smoking and Quitting Smoking (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
What is in the future for smoking?
Health care workers have become extremely active in publicizing the negative effects of smoking. In fact, health care workers have been instrumental in passing various legislation to limit smoking in public; as a result, the proportion of people in the US who smoke has dropped from 40.4% in 1965 to around 19% in 2010 (data from the US Department of Health).
This reduction in the percent of people who smoke, however, has been significantly less in women than in men. That is, from 1965 to 2010, smoking among men dropped from 50.2% to 21.5% while during the same period, smoking among women dropped from 31.9% to 19.3%. So, in the future, efforts need to be made to understand and eliminate this difference between the genders.
One interesting area of the current research on smoking is the study of the population distribution of the genes for smoking (genetic epidemiology). (Genes determine an individual's inherited characteristics.) Only a small fraction of individuals who start smoking as an adolescent will actually become nicotine dependent. So, what determines which individuals will become nicotine-dependent? Investigators have found that smoking initiation (the obligatory first step) and the development of nicotine dependence are both influenced by genetic factors. The genetic factors appear to play a larger role in nicotine dependence than in smoking initiation. The next step will be to identify these genes and learn how they work in order to facilitate the development of effective prevention and treatment strategies for tobacco addiction.
Teen smoking rates remain of concern; in 200-, approximately 20% of high school students were smokers, and 5% of middle school students reported smoking cigarettes. According to the American Cancer Society, the majority of cigarette use begins before a person reaches 18 years of age. Those who do not begin smoking by age 18 generally do not start to smoke later in life. Education of the at-risk teen population is therefore critical for prevention of tobacco use. Various celebrities and activist groups actively promote campaigns aimed at a teen audience that educate about the consequences of smoking and offer advice on smoking cessation and prevention. While teen smoking rates increased during the 1990s (36% of teens smoked in 1997), prevention and education campaigns have brought about a decrease in teen smoking in recent years.
Reviewed by Jay W. Marks, MD on 3/26/2012
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