It can also refer to people who use various recreational drugs, but none particularly habitually.
Such occasional users of tobacco are sometimes thought of as social smokers which is similar in meaning to social drinkers. However, evidence indicates that this only characterizes a minority of chippers. The prevalence of non-daily smoking in the U.S. has increased by 40% between 1996 and 2001.
Chippers are given as an example in The Tipping Point; if chippers begin smoking above a certain threshold (or tipping point), then they will develop regular cravings and become addicted.
The term dates at least to the 1970s, where it is used in reference to opiate use.
The term was notably used in reference to tobacco by psychologist Dr. Saul Shiffman, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
Notes and references
- Shiffman, S. & Paty, J.A. (2006). Smoking patterns of non-dependent smokers: Contrasting chippers and dependent smokers. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, 509-523.
- Centers for Disease Control (2003). Prevalence of current cigarette smoking among adults and changes in prevalence of current and some day smoking -- United States, 1996-2001. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 52, 303-307.
- The natural history of "chipping", Am J Psychiatry 1976; 133:37-40, NE Zinberg and RC Jacobson
- Shiffman, S. (1989). Tobacco "Chippers": Individual differences in tobacco dependence. Psychopharmacology, 97, 539-547.