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Health effects of cigarette relighting

Updated April 17, 2017

Many cigarette smokers sometimes choose to light a cigarette, extinguish it and relight it again at a later time. This can be due to time contraints, efforts to save money or a loss of interest in smoking once the cigarette is lit. Although it may not appear to pose any further risk to smokers to relight a cigarette, relighting can have negative impacts on health beyond the regular health risks associated with smoking.

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Health Effects

A 1963 study conducted in London found that the rate of chronic bronchitis is higher for those who extinguish and relight cigarettes than for those who do not. Out of 5,438 cigarette smokers, the rate of chronic bronchitis was 39.7 per cent among relighters and 32.9 per cent among those who did not relight cigarettes. Relighters were also found to be at a higher rik of developing lung cancer.


The study speculates that the higher occurrence of chronic bronchitis among relighters is caused by two possible effects when the cigarette is relit. One possibility is that relighters consume more tobacco and more tar when a cigarette is relit. Another possibility is that relighting the compressed and charred tobacco left at the burnt end of the cigarette produces a higher concentration of the dangerous chemicals that lead to the type of lung damage that is typical to chronic bronchitis.

Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a recurring inflammation of the bronchial tubes that most commonly develops from smoking cigarettes. Chronic bronchitis is more serious than acute bronchitis, which develops mostly from colds or respiratory infections and usually improves on its own. Symptoms of chronic bronchitis are persistent coughing that produces clear, white or yellowish mucus; chills or fever; fatigue and discomfort in the chest. Chronic bronchitis is defined as being a cough producing mucus that lasts for at least three months for two or more years consecutively, reports the Mayo Clinic website. A cough should be examined by a doctor if blood is produced or if it is accompanied by a fever, wheezing, shortness of breath or trouble sleeping.

Other Factors Influencing Chronic Bronchitis in Smokers

Age and cigarette consumption are shown to play important roles in the development of chronic bronchitis, with older age and higher consumption placing an individual at higher risk of developing the condition. The study also finds that there is a trend of social class in relighters, with individuals belonging to the lower social classes more likely to relight cigarettes. The study also shows that individuals who prefer filterless cigarettes instead of filtered are more likely to develop chronic bronchitis from cigarette relighting.

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About the Author

Megan Kelly started writing professionally in 2007 when she was published in the anthology, "Lit Kids: Mama Bird and the Electric Rabbit" through Mill City Press. She is also a submissions reviewer and grant writer for "Spout Press," an independent magazine in Minneapolis. Kelly is pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Minnesota.

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