Early Morning Smokers Have Higher Rates of Dependency, Lung Cancer

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A new study suggests that those who smoke immediately upon waking have higher levels of nicotine in the blood, regardless of the number of cigarettes they smoke.

The study from Penn State College of Medicine involved 252 smokers from New York State. Participants had blood samples drawn and answered surveys regarding their smoking habits.

Those who smoked within 30 minutes of waking had two times the levels of cotinine in their blood than those who smoked later in the day, even if they smoked fewer cigarettes. Cotinine is a chemical that indicates the amount of nicotine circulating through the body. High levels indicate a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

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The reasons are unclear, but lead researcher Joshua Muscat, a professor of public health sciences at Penn State, thinks it could be a sign that these smokers inhale more deeply, likely leading to increased dependency.

“These people may require a more intensive intervention than other smokers to help them quit smoking on a sustained or permanent basis, said Muscat. “Not all smokers are the same and approaches to smoking reduction may need to account for individual smoking behaviors such as the intensity and frequency of puffing, cravings, and physiological symptoms.”

Other experts caution that the study was small, and that findings should be taken with caution. Most agree with the authors in that more research is needed in this area, and follow-up studies are in progress.

The study is published in the December issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.

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