Researchers Study Ways to Help People Quit Smoking

May 29,2015

WASHINGTON— It's no secret that any type of tobacco use is not healthy. But, for most people, it's hard to quit. That's because most of them started the habit as teenagers and because tobacco contains nicotine.

"Nicotine is a highly addictive, very powerful drug," said Dr. Kimberly Horn, Associate Dean of Research at the George Washington University Milken School of Public Health.

Dr. Kimberly Horn said teens are likely to use more than one form of tobacco. It could be cigarettes, small cigars, smokeless tobacco. And teens who smoke are likely to use electronic cigarettes, which also deliver nicotine.

"The more nicotine that I get, the more addicted I am, the more difficult it is for me to quit,” she said.

There is no one technique for quitting that works for everyone. Some turn to e-cigarettes for help.

Cici, who provided only her first name, is hoping electronic cigarettes can help her kick the habit.

"After many years of smoking, I really don’t like the smell of smoke. I don’t like the mess of cigarette butts," she said. "I don’t like the taste it leaves in my mouth. And I don’t like the fact that other people are going to be bothered by the tobacco smoke.”

She admitted to being a heavy smoker and said she was also concerned about the health effects of tobacco use.

“When I tried it for the first time, I said, ‘Oh, that’s almost as good as smoking,’" she said. "And then I realized there were so many benefits, and I realized it was better than smoking.”

Stop smoking programs

Studies show electronic devices can work for some people, but not for others. Behavioral therapy and medication and products that reduce nicotine cravings like gum and nicotine patches might help.

Dr. Nancy Rigotti at Massachusetts General Hospital and other researchers designed a program to help smokers quit while they were in the hospital and stay smoke free after they were discharged.

Some patients were given a nicotine patch or medication and counseling in the hospital, with follow-up support after they left.

“We know that medication works and that counseling works, but they both together work much better than either one alone,” Rigotti said.
Seventy percent of smokers in that program were still smoke-free six months after leaving the hospital.

The U.S. government and private organizations have been running anti-smoking campaigns since 1964 when the U.S. Surgeon General produced his first report on Smoking and Health.

Since then there have been reports on how smoking affects women, youth and various diseases including diabetes and cancer.

A study from the Yale School of Public Health found that those who quit during this time period had a 30-percent improvement in life expectancy.

Dr. Theodore Holford, and co-authors compiled analyzed surveys and compiled personal histories, many of which had detailed information about where people smoked, when they began smoking and when they quit.

Holford concluded that between 17 and 18 million deaths in the U.S. were associated with the use of tobacco, and in particular, with cigarette smoking between 1964 and 2014.

And, he said, if the government had not started an anti-smoking campaign, “ an additional eight million would have died.”

Both studies were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.