Breaking the Cycle: How Smokers Can Improve Their Chances of Quitting

Kate H. Gamble, Senior Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, November 16, 2011
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On Thursday, November 17, thousands of smokers will kick the habit as part of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. By Christmas, however, many will have started smoking again. In fact, most smokers quit as many as 7 to 10 times before stopping for good, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Because smoking cessation can be extremely challenging, a new initiative is encouraging individuals to use Monday as the day to recommit and re-quit if they relapse. Rather than focusing on milestones such as birthdays or New Year’s as motivation to quit, which can add a great deal of pressure, using Monday gives smokers more chances to quit and stay quit.

“Monday is like the January of the week. People see it as an opportunity for a fresh start and are more likely to start or restart healthy behaviors on Monday than any other day,” said Sid Lerner, chairman of the Monday Campaigns, which also includes programs such as ‘Meatless Monday’ and ‘Move It Monday’. “It’s a natural restart day to change old bad habits into positive new ones, or to get back on the wagon if you've fallen off.”

Fran Stillman, co-director of the Institute for Global Tobacco Control at Johns Hopkins, said in a statement that he believes “using each Monday as the day for quitters to reaffirm their smoke cessation goal is a sensible way to stay on track.”

Individuals can visit smokefree.gov to receive tips to help them stay on track, and connect with other quitters through its Facebook and Twitter communities. Patients can also obtain information and support at the NIH's support site.

Although smokers face several hurdles and are fighting what may seem like an uphill battle, the good news, according to the CDC, is that most smokers want to quit. The Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from November 11, 2011 stated that 68% of current American adult smokers say they intend to stop, and 52.4% of adult smokers tried to quit within the past year.

The report also found that 48.3% of smokers who saw a health professional in the past year recalled getting advice to quit and 31.7% used counseling and/or medications in the past year. The use of these effective treatments can almost double to triple rates of successfully quitting, according to the CDC.

Other measures that can increase the likelihood of quitting include “hard-hitting media campaigns, 100% smoke-free policies, and higher tobacco prices,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, in a statement.

According to the report, making health care settings as well as all workplaces and public places smoke-free offers smokers additional encouragement to help them quit. The report also notes the health care industry can increase successful quit attempts by providing comprehensive insurance coverage with no deductibles or co-payments for cessation treatments and services.

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease, including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other lung diseases in the United States. Smoking and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke kill an estimated 443,000 Americans each year.

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