American Journal of Medicine, internal medicine, medicine, health, healthy lifestyles, cancer, heart disease, drugs

Cigarette Smoking in Persons Living with Hepatitis C: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2014

smoking cigarette in the hand of young man close up

Cigarette smoking is common in persons living with hepatitis C (hepatitis C+), but national statistics on this harmful practice are lacking. A better understanding of smoking behaviors in hepatitis C+ individuals may help in the development of targeted treatment strategies.

Methods

We extracted data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2014. Hepatitis C+ were compared with hepatitis C− adults in the entire sample and in the subset of current smokers. Measures included demographics, current smoking, cigarettes/day, nicotine dependence, other tobacco use, substance use, and medical and psychiatric comorbidities.

Results

Complete smoking and hepatitis C virus (HCV) data were available for 39,472 (90.1%) of 43,793 adult participants in NHANES during the study years. Hepatitis C+ smoked at almost triple the rate of hepatitis C− adults (62.4% vs 22.9%), with no significant difference between hepatitis C+ men and women (64.5% vs 58.2%). Hepatitis C+ smokers were more likely to smoke daily than hepatitis C− smokers (87.5% vs 80.0%), but had similar levels of nicotine dependence. Hepatitis C+ smokers were more likely to be older (mean age: 47.1 vs 41.5 years), male (69.4% vs 54.4%), Black (21.2% vs 12.1%), less educated (any college: 31.8% vs 42.9%), poor (mean family monthly poverty index: 1.80 vs 2.47), uninsured (43.9% vs 30.4%), use drugs (cocaine: 11.1% vs 3.2%; heroin: 4.0% vs 0.6%), and be depressed (33.2% vs 13.5%). Multivariate analyses revealed significant associations of both hepatitis C infection and cigarette smoking with current depression and hypertension.

Conclusions

There is a cigarette smoking epidemic embedded within the hepatitis C epidemic in the United States. The sociodemographic profile of hepatitis C+ smokers suggests that the implementation of effective tobacco treatment will be challenging. Thoughtful treatment strategies that are mindful of the unique characteristics of this group are needed.

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-Ryung S. Kim, PhD, Andrea H. Weinberger, PhD, Geetanjali Chander, MD, MPH, Mark S. Sulkowski, MD, Brianna Norton, DO, Jonathan Shuter, MD

This article originally appeared in the June issue  of The American Journal of Medicine.

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