Background: 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.
- Hepatitis C
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