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Smoking and Tobacco

Quit smoking and start it again



My boyfriend quit smoking 6 months ago and he wants to start again. He says he would not smoke more than 3 per day and says he will smoke only during winter. I can trust him to keep his word. But I am very concerned about his health.

Is smoking 3 cigarettes per day as harmful as smoking 20? Where do we draw the line? If it does not become a habit, is it okay to smoke? And what would be the effects of smoking 6 months, stop 6 months again smoke 6 months and so on?

He says its fine as long as it is within limits and quotes the stress at work as a reason to smoke. Is this fine? I am definitely scared and would like to know all about it.

Thank you very much.


"The check is in the mail."

"Of course, I'll still love you in the morning."

"She's just a friend."

"I'm just going to smoke a few when I'm stressed."

These are absolutely classic lines, and your boyfriend is telling one to both you and himself. It is the addict in him speaking; that part of his brain that has been hammered by 70,000 free-base hits a year of nicotine, and won't shut up.

Nicotine is a powerful change agent for the brain and it takes years to undo those stress-reaction patterns. Keep in mind that 95% of smokers who quit will be back smoking at their previous level at the end of a year. If he were a former heroin addict and he just said he wanted shoot up a couple times on weekends, what would you say?

As to the risk of three cigarettes per day versus twenty, I think the point is moot because it won't stay that way, but yes it's less risky: like jumping off a thirty foot cliff is less risky than jumping off a two hundred foot cliff.

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Response by:

Rob  Crane, MD Rob Crane, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University