New methods show promise in helping smokers quit
Text messages, medications to reduce stress being explored
Innovative techniques and the latest researcher in smoking cessation will be on the agenda at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in August. Researchers will discuss how smokers respond to dramatically reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes, text messages that can help smokers curb cravings and how medication may be a key to helping women avoid lighting up when stressed.
Dorothy K. Hatsukami, PhD, University of Minnesota, will present “Endgame for Tobacco Control: Biology to Policy.” New federal standards lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes so that they are no longer addictive could significantly reduce the number of tobacco-related deaths, according to Hatsukami. Currently, 443,000 deaths per year in the U.S. and 5 million worldwide are attributed to tobacco use. She will discuss research that found when smokers switch to cigarettes with less than one milligram of nicotine, they tend to smoke less, report being less dependent on these cigarettes, are exposed to fewer toxins and find it easier to quit smoking altogether. In addition, making cigarettes less appealing by eliminating flavors and designing them to deliver fewer toxic chemicals to the lungs are other ways to reduce the appeal and dangerous health effects of cigarettes, she says. Methods to deal with nicotine withdrawal and alternative sources of nicotine delivery are also among the topics Hatsukami will explore.
Sherry A. McKee, PhD, Yale University School of Medicine, will present “Why Is It More Difficult for Women to Quit Smoking? Translating Knowledge Into Practice.” Medications that reduce stress levels may be one way to help women who are having a difficult time quitting smoking, according to McKee. Taking medication originally marketed for hypertension helped both women and men control their habit. For women only, the drug also greatly improved physiological stress responses, according to McKee’s laboratory and clinical studies.
Beth C. Bock, PhD, Brown University, will present “Developing a Text Message Intervention for Smoking Cessation With Peer-to-Peer Support.” Sending smokers text messages that specifically encourage them to quit is more effective than generic motivational text messaging, according to research findings Bock will discuss. After six months of treatment, 17 percent of participants in her study who received smoking cessation text messages had abstained from smoking compared to 4 percent of a control group. “These results indicate that mobile technology has significant potential for aiding smoking cessation using methods that are already integrated into people’s everyday lives,” Bock says.