University of Pittsburgh
November 17, 2008

Wanted for Pitt Research Study: Those Who Smoke-But Not Every Day


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-They're not nonsmokers, but they're not quite your usual smokers, either. They're the people who smoke once in awhile-a few cigarettes one day, maybe none the next. They're called intermittent smokers, and they're a fast-growing population who make up about 25 percent of current smokers.

It's that particular community University of Pittsburgh researchers plan to study. Professor of psychology Saul Shiffman, a nationally renowned expert in smoking cessation and addiction, is recruiting 680 intermittent smokers and 353 daily smokers for a project aimed at better understanding those who only light up from time to time-a group that has grown by 40 percent in a five-year period.

"Intermittent smokers are challenging current models of smoking behavior," says Shiffman. "And although we know the demographic of this group, we don't know who becomes an intermittent smoker nor why or in what circumstances they smoke. Our research will begin to answer those questions."

Shiffman and his staff at the Smoking Research Group will develop baseline data to predict whether the intermittent smoker becomes a daily smoker, or perhaps gives up cigarettes completely, over a period of three years. A subset group of subjects will carry palmtop computers for several weeks on which they will record when they smoke and what they are doing when the urge hits-for example, drinking alcohol, experiencing stress, or being around other smokers. They'll also engage in a lab experiment-viewing slideshows of various stimuli and assessing their cravings and their inclination to smoke after each-in order to better understand what cues the intermittent smokers' behavior.

The researchers also will look at regular, daily smokers in the same way. The study is not focused on quitting, but on understanding how, why, and when people smoke.

Those interested in participating should be daily or intermittent smokers, at least 21 years of age. For more information, call 412-383-2059. Subjects can earn up to $335 for completing the study.