Tag Archives: quit smoking

Study: medication alone won’t help you quit smoking

Pharmaceutical interventions are often used to help people quit smoking, but a new study found that despite promising results in clinical trials, cessation drugs don’t really work in the real world.

Giving up smoking is a difficult task, as millions of people worldwide can attest to.There’s no silver bullet when it comes to quitting. Of course, some things tend to work better than others, but overall, people find the drive to quit through different methods. Because this habit is so difficult to shake off, medical treatments are especially appealing to some. There are several different treatments available from shops, pharmacies, or on prescription to help you beat this addiction and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Of course, the best treatment depends on personal preference, age, and many other parameters, but the treatments seemed to work –with ‘seemed being the key phrase here.

“Thirty-four percent of people who are trying to quit smoking use pharmaceutical aids and yet most are not successful,” said senior study author John P. Pierce, PhD, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center.

“The results of randomized trials that tested these interventional drugs showed the promise of doubling cessation rates, but that has not translated into the real world.”

In a new study, Pierce and his colleagues assessed the effectiveness of three first-line medications recommended by clinical practice guidelines: varenicline, bupropion, and nicotine replacement therapy (patch). Unfortunately, the results they found weren’t good — essentially, the treatments didn’t work.

“We found no evidence that the pharmaceutical cessation aids that we assessed improved the chances of successfully quitting. This was both surprising, given the promise of smoking cessation seen in randomized trials, and disappointing because of the need for interventions to help smokers quit,” Pierce added.

He also proposes a theory why the treatments worked in the clinical trials but failed in real life: it was because of the intensive behavioral counseling. Researchers suggest that if people want to replicate the success that cessation drugs reported in clinical trials, they should also enroll in counseling programs. Otherwise, the odds of relapse increase drastically.

“Smokers who are committed to quitting and want to use a pharmaceutical aid should also enroll in a program that could help them track their progress and support them in their attempt,” said first author Eric Leas, PhD, who conducted the research while a graduate student researcher at UC San Diego and is now a postdoctoral scholar at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Thankfully, counseling is available in many shapes and forms so you don’t necessarily need to go to the counseling office. Many states offer free behavioral counseling over the phone, and e-counseling is also becoming more and more prevalent.

The study “Effectiveness of Pharmaceutical Smoking Cessation Aids in a Nationally Representative Cohort of American Smokers” has been published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djx240

Undergoing a lung CT scan can help people quit smoking — regardless of results

British researchers have shown that something as simple as undergoing a lung CT scan might help people quit smoking. Even if it comes out fine.

Image credist: Geralt / Pixabay.

A smoking gun

The World Health Organization estimates that there are 1.1 billion smokers in the world — that’s every one in three adults. China is by far the biggest producer and consumer of cigarettes, with more than 350 million residents being smokers. India follows with 120 million smokers, while the US can ‘boast’ 36.5 million smokers. Tobacco ends up killing half of its users.

In recent times, smoking rates have gone down dramatically in the developed world. Countries like England and Australia are reporting all-time lows in smoking rates, partially fueled by higher taxes. In the European Union, banning smoking inside bars and clubs also played a vital role, but still — a worrying number of people still smoke, ignoring the numerous and far reaching health hazards.

The reasons why people start smoking aren’t really that varied. Most people start smoking in their teens, due to peer or cultural pressure (the smoking is cool idea). Almost 90% of smokers picked up the habit by 18, and 99% of smokers picked it up by the time they were 26. Usually, when smokers reach adulthood, they’re already addicted and find it very hard to quit. If you talk to most smokers, they’ll tell you they’ve tried quitting at least once but failed for one reason or another. There are countless books and ‘methods’ to quit smoking, but there’s no silver bullet. But we may be missing out on something fairly simple, a new study found: medical tests.

To quit or not to quit

Researchers from Cardiff University, King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London and the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Translational Medicine studied 4,055 participants aged 50 to 75. They were split into two groups: one that underwent low-dose CT screenings for their lungs, and a control group who didn’t undergo screening.

Right-sided pneumothorax (right side of image) on CT scan of the chest. Image via Clinical Cases / Wikipedia.

The control group reported cessation rates of five percent after two weeks and ten percent after two years. For the CT scan group, rates were ten percent and fifteen percent respectively — that’s a 100% and a 50% increase.

Perhaps most interestingly, this happened regardless of the study results. It was just the medical test itself that persuaded people to give up the nasty habit. Dr Kate Brain, from Cardiff University comments:

‘Our trial shows that CT lung cancer screening offers a teachable moment for smoking cessation among high-risk groups in the UK. We now need evidence about the best ways of integrating lung cancer screening with stop-smoking support, so that services are designed to deliver the maximum health benefits for current and future generations.’

Because this study actually had two groups (a CT scan and a control group), researchers also bypassed the “correlation is not causality” debate. Without this, you could have argued that people who opt for a CT scan care more about their health and are more likely to give up smoking — but this is a significant indication that the CT is causing the increased cessation rate.

It might not seem like much, but considering the sheer damage that smoking does, it’s an avenue that’s worth investigating. Prof John Field, University of Liverpool’s clinical professor of molecular oncology, chief investigator of the UK Lung Cancer Screening Trial believes that this can make a significant difference in tackling lung cancer.

‘The findings of this study dispute the belief that a negative screening result offers a “licence to smoke.” Engaging with lung screening can give smokers an opportunity to access smoking cessation support — at a time when they are likely to be more receptive to offers of help.’

However, CT scans are not easily available in all countries. It can be expensive, it can take months and months of waiting, or it may simply not be available. It would be interesting to see if results are similar for other, perhaps simpler tests.

Journal Reference: Kate Brain et al — Impact of low-dose CT screening on smoking cessation among high-risk participants in the UK Lung Cancer Screening Trial. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/thoraxjnl-2016-209690

You’re more likely to quit smoking and work out if your partner does the same

Changing bad habits into good ones can be quite a challenge, but having a partner that does the same goes a long way. A new study has found that if your partner works out and quits smoking, then you are much more likely to do the same thing.

Encouragement and support go a long way – and collaborating in a team is one of the main characteristics of our species, so it’s only normal that teaming up makes things easier. Researchers at the University College London found that both men and women worked out more if their partners joined them, and the same thing goes for losing weight.

Couples jogging. Image via Live Super Foods.

Researchers turned to the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and examined the smoking habits, workout patterns and weight loss of 3,722 married and cohabiting English couples over 50 years old. The figures are striking – only 8% of those partnered with smokers quit smoking, but that number jumped to 50% when the partner also quit. A similar pattern emerged for physical activity, with a whopping 70 percent of people exercising when their partner did the same!

When it came to actually losing weight, the figures weren’t so spectacular, though they were still highly relevant. Researchers looked at how many people lost 5% of their body weight – a significant figure. They found that a quarter of all men lost weight when their partners did the same, with only 10% doing it alone. For women, those figures were 36% and 15% respectively.

It’s not clear yet why this happens, and this was not the purpose of the study.

“Of course we weren’t studying ‘why,’ only ‘whether’, but I would speculate that social support and sharing the problem would be good,” Jane Wardle of University College London said. “Maybe there might also be an element of competition.”

What was very interesting is that the patterns weren’t so strong when people got involved with already healthier people – it worked much better when both partners were working to solve problems.

“The partner merely being slim didn’t seem to promote change,” said Wardle. “Perhaps couples can more easily ignore (or accept) differences in weight without feeling any pressure to change; perhaps weight differences aren’t as readily expressed as visible differences in food intake.”

Wardle also mentioned that the same trends probably continue to same sex relationships and marriages, but the numbers they had available for this statistic was to small to have any meaning.

The study also indicates that if one of the partners needs to lose weight and quit smoking, his partner can directly help him by doing the same.

“I would certainly recommend doctors to enquire if their patient’s partner ought to be quitting smoking, getting more active, or losing some weight, and if so talk to the patient about whether the two of them might take the change up together,” she said.

Journal Reference: Sarah E. Jackson, PhD; Andrew Steptoe, DSc; Jane Wardle, PhD. The Influence of Partner’s Behavior on Health Behavior Change. JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 19, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.7554

Smoking ban in public places helps people quit, research shows

As a non-smoker with many smoking friends living in a country without a smoking ban, going out can be quite a hassle sometimes. Staying in smoky rooms, the way the clothes smell after getting home… I feel like I may be smoking just as well. But as it turns out, smoking bans help smokers just as much as they help non-smokers – if not more.

According to a study by the University of California San Diego, measures like baning smoking in public places and work are actually very effective in helping smokers cut back or entirely quit.

“When there’s a total smoking ban in the home, we found that smokers are more likely to reduce tobacco consumption and attempt to quit than when they’re allowed to smoke in some parts of the house,” said Wael K. Al-Delaimy, MD, PhD, professor and chief of the Division of Global Health in the UC San Diego Department of Family and Preventive Medicine in a press statement. “The same held true when smokers report a total smoking ban in their city or town. Having both home and city bans on smoking appears to be even more effective.”

It’s estimated that in the US, 43.8 million people (19%) of all people smoke. Personally, I find that to be quite a high number, but just compare it to other places in the world: in Russia, China and Indonesia, some 80% of all adult males smoke – so installing smoking bans in public places could do a world of good – literally.

Male adult smoking rates in the world. Via Wikipedia.

For the study, researchers surveyed 1,718 smokers in the state of California. They found that total smoking bans in homes was way more effective than partial bans, in terms of reducing smoking and quitting it. As for demographics, researchers showed that home smoking bans were more effective in reducing cigarette consumption among females and people over 65 years, while total state bans were more effective in male smokers quitting – this could help law-makers from across the world to install better bans.

In 1994, California became the first state to ban smoking and surprisingly or not, it received a very positive response. The benefits of this ban were evident, at first for non-smokers, and in time, for ex-smokers as well. Recently popular coffee café Starbucks banned smoking 25 feet near its stores – but only in the US. Unfortunately, they don’t plan on extending the ban in other countries.

Obesity is just as bad for you as smoking

obesity_4Obesity is a problem that’s taking bigger and bigger proportions (especially in the US), due mostly to fast food and lack of physical activity, and it seems that most people still fail to understand the major bad impact it has on one’s health. However, thanks to a recent study published in the February 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, it’s now safe to say that obesity is just as bad as smoking.

The study was conducted by researchers from Columbia University and The City College of New York and it analyzed the Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) lost due to obesity and found that they are equal to those lost due to smoking, if not greater.

Investigators Haomiao Jia, PhD and Erica I. Lubetkin, MD, MPH, state, “Although life expectancy and QALE have increased over time, the increase in the contribution of mortality to QALYs lost from obesity may result in a decline in future life expectancy. Such data are essential in setting targets for reducing modifiable health risks and eliminating health disparities.”

The thing is, both obesity AND smoking are modifiable risk factors; all it takes is eating a salad every once in a while and maybe taking a run (or even a walk) in the park a couple of times a week. It sounds cheesy but… think what this means especially if you’re obese and smoking.

Just a single cigarette has very harmful effects

It may seem hard to believe, but even smoking a single cigarette has really bad effects on you, especially if you’re a young adult, according to a study conducted by Dr. Stella Daskalopoulou. Her study found that smoking one cigarette increases the stiffness of the arteries by 25 percent in adults of ages from 18 to 30. When arteries get stiffer, the heart has to work harder due to the increase resistance, and thus the chance of heart diseases or strokes greatly increase.

“Young adults aged 20-24 years have the highest smoking rate of all age groups in Canada,” says Dr. Daskalopoulou, an internal medicine and vascular medicine specialist at McGill University Health Centre. “Our results are significant because they suggest that smoking just a few cigarettes a day impacts the health of the arteries. This was revealed very clearly when these young people were placed under physical stress, such as exercise.”

The arterial stiffness was calculated using a method called applanation tonometry that measures the arteries’ response in case of exercise, pretty much like a cardiac stress test. They compared the results of young smokers (5-6) cigarettes per day to non smokers.

“In effect we were measuring the elasticity of arteries under challenge from tobacco,” explains Dr. Daskalopoulou.

The results were pretty shocking: after exercise, smokers had an arterial stiffness increase of 12.6 per cent after nicotine gum and 24.5 per cent after a single cigarette. Interestingly enough though, there was no difference during rest.

“In effect, this means that even light smoking in otherwise young healthy people can damage the arteries, compromising the ability of their bodies to cope with physical stress, such as climbing a set of stairs or running to catch a bus,” says Dr. Daskalopoulou. “It seems that this compromise to respond to physical stress occurs first, before the damage of the arteries becomes evident at rest.”

“More than 47,000 Canadians will die prematurely each year due to tobacco use, which often starts in the teen years,” warns Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson. “We know that over 90 per cent of teenagers who smoke as few as three to four cigarettes a day may be trapped into a lifelong habit of regular smoking, which typically lasts 35 to 40 years.”

Don’t smoke, it’s bad for your pet!

If you are a smoker you’ve definitely heard more arguments than you can count against keeping such a habit. However, you continued to smoke, no matter what scary studies did scientists come up with. But apparently, this is not a decision to affect only you: your canary, dog, cat or why not turtle, might be at risk because of you smoking. So, would you give up on it for your pet?
An anti-smoking campaign was started after Sharon Milberger at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit used an on-line survey to determine what it is that could make people give up their daily dose of tobacco. 3000 people responded, out of which 600 were smokers. About a third said that if second-hand smoking jeopardized their pet’s health, they would quit without second thoughts.
Apparently, pet owners seem to be quite worried about what happens to their furry or feathered flat-mates and they do have reasons for that.
Pets have their health put at risk if they inhale the smoke, eat cigarette buds or nicotine replacement gum or patches. From 1 to 5 cigarettes and 1 cigar can be enough to kill your pet if it happens to ingest it.
Cigarette smoke proves to have severe effects too:
Cardiac abnormalities
Respiratory difficulties and respiratory paralysis
Feline lymphoma in cats
Lung cancer in dogs
Nasal cancer in dogs
Breathing problems in dogs and asthmatic-like symptoms in cats

All these diseases should be enough to make someone think twice before lighting another cigarette while their dog is playing around the room. And, of course there are the effects this habit has on people, which are just as bad; however, a passive smoker may choose to get out of the room, while a pet does not have the same possibilities. So, could this campaign be the one to make you throw away your pack of smokes?
source: Tobacco Control

Older smokers more likely to quit smoking



It can be quite puzzling to understand why numerous want (or “want”) to quit smoking and fail to do so. The addiction is perhaps stronger than their power to say no, or maybe they just don’t want to quit. Physicians are trying to treat smoking related problems and in the same time talk people out of smoking, but a new study has shown that surprisingly people who have not quit smoking by the age of 65 are more likely to quit smoking.

This came as a shock because the doctors believed that a man who has not quit smoking by the age of 65 is not going to stop; it makes sense, right?

“The current common perception among the medical community is that if smokers age 65 and older haven’t quit by now, they can’t or won’t quit — a perception which may lead physicians to focus less on their older patients’ smoking habit,” said lead study author Virginia Reichert, NP, Center for Tobacco Control, North Shore-LIJ Health System, Great Neck, New York. “Our results show that older smokers are motivated to quit smoking by very different factors compared with younger smokers. If these factors are addressed, we may see cessation rates improve for both age groups.”

Older smokers were more likely than younger smokers to have a recent hospitalization (23% vs 13%), comorbid cardiac disease (78% vs 38%), cancer (20% vs 7%), and/or chronic obstructive lung disease/asthma (37% vs 23%). c”Tobacco-related diseases are major causes of death in the United States,” said Alvin V. Thomas, Jr., MD, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. “The more we know about what motivates smokers to quit their habit and what personal obstacles they face in doing so, the more we can tailor smoking cessation programs to fit the individual needs of our patients.”. So smokers who want to quit could wait a little time. They could quit smoking tomorrow.