It is tough to be a hard-core chain-smoker these days.

Half of the U.S. population lives in areas where smoking is banned in workplaces, bars and restaurants.

More than 70 percent of Americans do not allow smoking in their homes, including about half of current smokers.

Taxes have pushed the cost of smoking ever higher ($10 per pack in New York City) and the social costs, such as disgusted looks and lectures from friends and family members, have escalated too.

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Such inconveniences are forcing a change in smoking habits and upending traditional approaches to smoking cessation.

For one thing, there is a growing group of intermittent and secret smokers who seem to smoke as much for psychological and emotional reasons as nicotine addiction.

In addition to breaking the physical addiction, smokers who want to quit today need to understand why, when and where they smoke, and challenge some of the thinking that goes along with it, cessation experts say.

" 'Sneaking one in' has become a smoker's pastime and avocation," said Timothy Stephens, a 40-year-old Manhattan lawyer who started smoking cigarettes in high school when he played a Jet in "West Side Story." Nowadays, with a wife and baby, he does not smoke at home. He takes five-minute smoking breaks outside his office building ("four minutes if it's cold") and he drives to work from the suburbs instead of using public transit so he can get more smoking in.

Even though the percentage of American adults who smoke has stalled at about 20% in recent years, smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes than they used to (an average of 13 per day, down from 21 in 1980).

And a growing proportion of smokers of roughly 25% don't smoke every day. One government study found that half of American smokers either do not smoke daily or smoke fewer than six cigarettes a day.

Researchers used to think light and intermittent smoking was a transitional phase for smokers on their way to quitting or ramping up to a more serious habit. But a few recent studies suggest that it is a new, stable pattern, particularly among young, college-educated smokers.

An analysis of smoking patterns during the 1990s, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research last year, found that 18-to-29-year-olds were twice as likely as those aged 50 to 64 to be non-daily smokers.

Many experts expect that pattern to continue. "Young people who have grown up with a smoke-free home, school and workplace environment may stabilize at a much lower dependence level than those without such restrictions," the researchers wrote.

SOURCE LINK: Wall Street Journal