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Nicotine and Cancer: Are You Among Misinformed?

Survey Shows Many Smokers Don't Really Understand How Cigarettes Cause Cancer

Anyone Can Quit

The survey included more than 1,000 men and women attending a smoking-cessation program directed by Reichert at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.

Researchers reported that approximately 72% of the women and 59% of the men surveyed believed that nicotine caused cancer; 75% of women and 64% of men worried that smoking would give them cancer.

More women than men (77% vs. 62%) reported feeling guilty about their smoking habit. And 41% of women and slightly less than 15% of men worried that they would gain weight if they quit smoking.

The smokers in the survey averaged two unsuccessful attempts at quitting before entering the program, and men and women were equally successful with their latest attempt.

Motivation was the biggest predictor of whether someone would succeed or fail to quit. Another big predictor was how comfortable people were in their first few days without cigarettes.

People who try to quit "cold turkey" with no nicotine replacement almost always fail, Reichert says. And even those who use gums or patches often don't use as much as they need to. She adds that joining a smoking-cessation program can make all the difference when a smoker really wants to quit.

"A three-pack-a-day smoker may need to use three patches at once to get the same amount of nicotine that their body is used to getting," she says. "That is more than is recommended, and it should be done under medical supervision. But with intensive long-term nicotine replacement it is absolutely possible for everyone to quit."

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