Why some “non-identifying smokers” face risks while denying the behavior.
While smoking among California adults has dramatically declined in recent decades, researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine report there is a surprisingly large number of people who say they use cigarettes, but don’t consider themselves to be “smokers.”
Writing in the Feb. 5 online issue of Tobacco Control, Wael K. Al-Delaimy, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Global Health in the UC San Diego Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, and colleagues estimate that in 2011 almost 396,000 Californians (12.3 percent of the state’s population of smokers) smoked on a measurable basis, but rejected the characterization of “smoker.”
Almost 22 percent of these smokers consumed tobacco on a daily basis.
Al-Delaimy said the phenomenon has both individual and social ramifications. For individuals, the behavior puts them at many of the same health risks as identified smokers. “There is no safe level of smoking,” he said.
More broadly, non-identification of “non-identifying smokers” or NIS may be negatively impacting efforts to reduce tobacco consumption by overlooking a significant segment of the affected population, the researchers said. This is especially true at the clinical setting where physicians might ask patients if they smoke and patient fail to identify themselves as smokers.