Do you butt out?

With the increasing cost of a pack of cigarettes (in New Jersey it's around $8 per pack) and the worsened economy, many smokers have changed their smoking habits because they can no longer afford to smoke a pack per day.

The simplest way people adjust is to smoke fewer cigarettes per day. Some may switch to cheaper brands (generic, discount, or little cigars). One of the other things we have noticed becoming more common is the habit of “butting out”. This refers to a change in smoking habits from discarding each cigarette after it has been smoked, (regardless of whether there is any remaining tobacco), towards keeping the partially smoked cigarette, for re-smoking at a later time. Smokers typically try to tap off the residual ash at the end of the cigarette, and then extinguish the cigarette, before putting it back in their pack or some other form of holder.

The wave of so-called “fire-safe” cigarettes has made this practice easier. These cigarettes have intermittent “speed-bump” perforations in the cigarette paper, which cause the cigarette to self-extinguish if the smoker doesn’t take another puff at that point, with the puff causing it to to burn past the speed bump. The idea here is that the cigarette will self-extinguish if the smoker falls asleep or drops the cigarette, making it less likely to ignite a fire.

We have also observed various other changes in smoking habits. These include picking up others’ used cigarettes (from the ground or ash-trays) to smoke instead of buying their own, and switching to “roll-your-own” tobacco that tends to be much cheaper.

You can view slides and listen to a presentation that discusses assessing dependence (addiction) in smokers, in the context of some of these changes in smoking patterns at:

But “butting out” seems to be particularly common among people on a low income who smoke less than 10 cigarettes per day. You can now find gadgets for sale on the Internet to assist with “butting out”. These typically have the appearance of a fancy pen, but are actually hollow and are intended for storing a “butted-out” cigarette.

One thing to be clear about is that someone who once smoked a pack a day but is now butting out and getting by on only 6 or 7, is almost certainly NOT smoking two-thirds less. They may easily be inhaling just as much smoke as when they were smoking 20. They are just smoking fewer cigarettes more efficiently. So don’t be deluded into thinking this is much less harmful to your health as it is probably not. This habit of reusing cigarettes is called “butting out” in New Jersey, but may be called a different name in other places. Do you “butt out” or have you made any other changes to your smoking because it’s more expensive?
  • 1
Was this article helpful? Yes No

About the Author

MA, MAppSci, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Foulds is an expert in the field of tobacco addiction.