A new study has found that while there’s a decrease in overall smoking levels in the US, “very light” smoking has become more common. A person is referred to as a very light smoker when he or she smoked five or less cigarettes in a day.

The said study had more than 9,700 women aged between 18 and 25 years as participants. Around one fifth of those women, mostly likely possessing some level of college education, belonging to minority groups, and aged between 18 and 20, were found to be practicing very light smoking;.

The study described very light smokers as individuals with a greater awareness of the perils of nicotine consumption and said that these people are less likely to report nicotine dependence than the heavy smokers. Based on these facts, the study recommended very light smokers as targets for prevention efforts.

A research team at the University of Texas in Austin carried out the study and published the results in Preventing Chronic Disease, a peer-reviewed journal by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

As indicated above, the study focused on women. The researchers decided to carry out the study on women primarily due to the ill effects smoking has on their reproductive health and also because of the attractive way smoking habit of women is portrayed by advertisers.

According to the study authors, advertisements created to attract women try to establish a connection between smoking and qualities like sophistication, attractiveness and independence, traits that particularly appeal to young women.

As the researchers found that the majority of the very light smokers are of college-going age and have some college education, they concluded that for young women smoking might be a part of the college part scene. They wrote that light smoking might be promoted among women studying in college by social features such as weekend partying.

Researchers found that very light smokers are usually more aware of the risks of smoking than people smoking more frequently, but chances of showcasing symptoms of depression are similar in all category of smokers.

Another fact put forward by the study is that light smokers often don’t consider themselves as smokers. So, when talking to patients, especially young women, practitioners should ask them: when’s the last time they smoked, and not whether they smoke.