There is a cigarette smoking epidemic embedded within the hepatitis C virus epidemic in the United States, according to the results of an analysis of data between 1999 and 2014 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Cigarette butts ©siwaporn999/Thinkstock

Smoking and hepatitis C information were available for 90.1% of the NHANES adult population. Of the 39,472 individuals evaluated, 1.3% were hepatitis C+ and 22.3% were current smokers. Hepatitis C+ individuals were almost three times as likely to be smokers as were those who were hepatitis C– (62.4% vs. 22.9%, respectively), according to the report, published in The American Journal of Medicine (Am J Med. 2018 Jun;131[6]:699-75).

Ryung S. Kim, PhD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, and his colleagues also found that hepatitis C+ smokers were more likely to be older, male, black, less educated, poor, and uninsured compared with their hepatitis C– smoking counterparts. They also were more likely to use drugs, including heroin, and to be depressed.

Multivariate analysis showed a significant association of both hepatitis C infection and smoking with current depression and hypertension, Dr. Kim and his colleagues wrote.

“It is public health folly to spend tens of millions of dollars annually” on treatment of hepatitis C patients, “and ignore the lethal addiction affecting more than 60% of them. As we enter a new era of hepatitis C treatment, it is a public health imperative to research, develop, and implement tobacco treatments for the hepatitis C+ community,” Dr. Kim and his colleagues concluded.

The authors reported that they had no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Kim RS et al. Am J Med. 2018Jun;131[6]:669-75).