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Helping Smokers Quit

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  • Helping Smokers Quit

    I've talked to a few young people with TS who are desperate to quit smoking.
    They are meeting girls who are not impressed by how they smell, they are finding it awkward to ask a new employer for a smoke break and as we teach them budgeting skills in It's Your Move, they quickly realize how much of their income this habit steals from expenses they need to pay like rent and food.

    Below you will find new research from the UK on personalizing a program for the smoker's particular patterns and beliefs together with information from the Canadian Lung Association on various options to quit smoking.
    If you're trying to quit, good luck!

    Helping Smokers Quit
    The Toronto Star
    July 3, 2012

    Tailoring online advice to a smoker’s particular patterns and beliefs about smoking was no more effective than standardized feedback in a new study comparing how many smokers successfully quit with each approach.

    Research has shown that one-on-one counselling can help smokers break the habit and remain abstinent. But counselling isn’t affordable or convenient for everyone. Generalized quitting advice, especially delivered online, is cheaper and easier for many.

    So researchers are trying to find a good middle ground: individualized advice that can be easily disseminated.

    For the new study, reported in the journal Addiction, U.K. researchers tested their own version of tailored, online quit advice.

    They randomly assigned 1,758 smokers to get either one-size-fits-all advice from a non-profit UK website called QUIT, or an individualized version based on a participant’s answers to a questionnaire about age, habits, lifestyle, motivations and other details.

    For example, the standard-advice group was told how much money the typical smoker spends on the habit. People in the tailored group were told how much they themselves likely spent each week.

    After six months, 9 per cent of smokers in each group said they had been smoke-free for the past three months.

    The findings are somewhat surprising, according to lead researcher Dr. Dan Mason, of Cambridge University.

    On the other hand, he said in an email, the general-advice group got much the same information as the tailored-advice group — albeit in a “more generic” way.

    Smokers who got tailored advice were also invited to return to the website four weeks later to get a progress report. The problem, Mason’s team found, was that few of them did — less than one-quarter of the group.

    Because the 9 per cent of each group who succeeded in remaining abstinent for three months were not compared to a group of smokers receiving no advice, “It’s a pretty tough test,” Mason said, “as we are really only testing the tailoring and not so much the content of the advice.”

    The findings don’t mean that tailored quit help is of no use, according to the researchers.

    Mason noted that researchers are still working on how to best individualize smoking-cessation help.

    “Studies of tailored interventions show them to be effective in some cases and not in others,” Mason said.

    “Our study,” he added, “adds information to this emerging picture.”

    It’s possible that the approach in this test just wasn’t “interactive” enough, the researchers say.

    “The issue is how to maintain engagement with smokers so that you can take advantage of the capability of a website environment to provide ongoing feedback and encouragement,” Mason said.

    Sending people regular emails or text messages, offering online sessions with counsellors, or setting up chat rooms for smokers to give each “social support” might all help keep website users engaged, according to Mason.

    Whether that would translate into a higher rate of successful quit attempts is a whole other question, he noted.

    Kicking the smoking habit is notoriously difficult.

    Some smokers are able to quit “cold turkey,” but experts say that most people need a combination of therapies and multiple attempts.

    One large review found that success rates for quit attempts with some kind of counselling or social support ranged from about four per cent to six per cent, while attempts that included nicotine replacement therapy or another medication were successful between 7 per cent and 16 per cent of the time.

    According to the American Lung Association (ALA), it takes the average smoker five or six serious tries to finally quit. In general, the group says the best bet is to try some type of behavioural counselling along with nicotine replacement therapy or medication.

    The ALA has its own online program, called “Freedom From Smoking

    The Canadian Lung Association also has published its own helpful web-page "Quitting Smoking"
    Here is are the strategies it proposes:

    How to quit smoking

    Most people find it hard to quit smoking. Quitting can be hard, but it’s not impossible. Many people like you have quit smoking. You can too. Counseling, medications, and other supports can help you quit.

    If you’ve tried quitting smoking before but couldn’t do it, try again. Each time you try, it will get easier. You will be one step closer to quitting for good.
    Now is the best time to quit. It’s never too late.

    How should I quit smoking?

    1. Pick a quit day
    Choose a date within the next two weeks to quit. Don't wait for the "perfect" day – just pick a date and work with it. Put it in your calendar. If you'd like:
    • List your reasons for quitting - health, family, money.
    • Write down some new hobbies you can do instead of smoking – exercise, knitting, making model airplanes- something to keep your hands and mind busy.
    • Speak with friends, family, and colleagues and ask for support. Tell them about your plan to quit, so it feels more real to you.
    • Start making the changes to push smoking out of your everyday life - stop smoking in the house and in the car. Make your house and car smoke-free, so no one is allowed to smoke inside.
    • Learn about nicotine withdrawal symptoms and how to cope with them.

    2. Choose two or more proven quit-smoking methods
    There are many proven ways to quit smoking. To boost your chances of quitting, choose more than one method. Pick what seems right for you. Each person is different. You'll know what will work best for you.
    Proven quit smoking methods:

    Going “cold turkey” – quitting spontaneously, on your own - also works well for some people. Some people just decide to quit smoking one day - maybe it’s the day they find out they have a lung disease, or the day their grandchild is born. Maybe there is something else that motivates them. Many people who have quit smoking for good say they quit “cold turkey”. If you think going cold turkey could work for you, try it.

    3. On your quit date, butt out completely.
    • Don’t smoke, not even a little.
    • Toss out your cigarettes, other tobacco, and ashtrays.
    • Avoid people and situations where you will be tempted to smoke. If you usually smoke in a certain chair, don’t sit in that chair. If you usually smoke at a nightclub, avoid that nightclub for a while. Change your usual routine, so your new routine doesn’t include smoking.
    • Go for a walk instead of a smoke.
    • Be positive. Believe in yourself and your plan.
    • Remember that nicotine withdrawal symptoms only last a short time. Follow these tips to cope with withdrawal symptoms.
    • Get help from support groups, counselors and your local quitline
    • Take it one day at a time. Remind yourself that once the withdrawal is over, you’ll feel better than you have in years. You deserve to feel better…. You’re almost there!
    • Celebrate your success and give yourself credit! Tell people how long you’ve been quit. It's a major achievement and you should be proud.
    • If you’d like, tell us how long you’ve quit. We’d love to hear from you and celebrate your success! You can use this form to submit your quit story.

    Consider exercising more. When you're quitting smoking, exercise can help. Exercise is a healthy alternative to smoking, it can take your mind off your cravings, it can help your mood and energy level, and it can help keep off extra weight. If you are new to exercising, start slowly. A walk around the block is a good start.

    4. If you slip up, don’t give up. Try quitting again.
    Quitting smoking gets easier with practice. Every time you try to quit, you boost your chances of quitting for good. Most people who’ve quit smoking forever had to try 5 or 6 times before they could quit for good. This is normal.

    Don't be discouraged if you slip up. You are not a failure. Try to figure out what the barriers were to your quitting. Were the nicotine cravings too strong? Did you go back to smoking when you were stressed? Talk with your counselor, doctor or pharmacist about your experience. Ask yourself how you can do it differently next time. If you think quit smoking medicines will make it easier for you to quit next time, ask your doctor or pharmacist for their recommendation. Then try quitting again. Keep trying.

    Unproven methods to quit smoking
    Quitting smoking is tough. You are going to spend time, energy, and maybe even money to try to quit. So it’s best to choose quit smoking methods that are proven to work.

    We’ve reviewed the medical evidence and put a list of proven quit smoking methods, above. There are also some unproven quit smoking methods that people and companies may try to sell you.

    These quit smoking methods have not been proven to work:
    • Acupuncture
    • Acupressure
    • Electrostimulation
    • Laser therapy
    • Hypnosis

    It's best to check with your doctor before spending money on these therapies.
    Tina, Forum Moderator, TSFC Staff Liaison

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