, Volume 207, Issue 3, pp 343-363

First online:

Light and intermittent cigarette smokers: a review (1989–2009)

  • Chris R. E. CogginsAffiliated withCarson Watts Consulting
  • , E. Lenn MurrelleAffiliated withResearch, Development & Engineering, Altria Client ServicesVenebio Group LLC, Virginia Bio-Technology Research Park
  • , Richard A. CarchmanAffiliated withVirginia Bio-Technology Research Park, StatSolvers LLC
  • , Christian HeidbrederAffiliated withResearch, Development & Engineering, Altria Client ServicesReckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Email author 

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Growing proportions of smokers in the USA do not smoke everyday and can be referred to as light and intermittent smokers (LITS). Despite a current prevalence of LITS in the USA estimated at 25–33% of all smokers, a systematic review of the literature on this group of smokers has yet to be written.


The aim of this paper is to review and evaluate research on LITS and to identify, describe and discuss commonalities and differences between LITS and daily smokers.


The primary databases used to search for publications were Pub Med (National Library of Medicine) and SCOPUS (Elsevier).


LITS inhale smoke and have post-smoking blood nicotine concentrations that are broadly equivalent to those found in daily smokers. However, LITS differ from daily smokers with regard to cigarette consumption and frequency of cigarette use, sociodemographic and socioeconomic characteristics, motives, personality traits, dependence, withdrawal and craving, response to smoking-related cues, quitting perception, past-smoking status, and initiation.


In contrast to daily smokers, LITS show few or no signs of dependence as currently defined by DSM-IV criteria, appear to exercise more self-control, seem to be less impulsive, and their smoking experience is primarily associated with positive rather than negative reinforcement. Conclusions drawn from the reviewed literature highlight the multivariate factors that must be taken into account when defining LITS and emphasize the importance of further research on this increasing fraction of smokers. The potential implications of increased LITS prevalence on smoking-related disease risks remain to be thoroughly investigated.


Binge drinking Chippers Epidemiology Health risk Low-frequency smoking Nicotine Nicotine dependence Non-daily smoking Personality traits