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    The Romance of a Good Smoke

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    WebMD Feature

    Feb. 19, 2001 -- Back when Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall attracted moviegoers in hordes to To Have and Have Not, Key Largo, Dark Passage, and other flicks, part of the appeal was Bogie's suave lighting of his-and-her cigarettes. Sexy, sexy, sexy.

    Of course, that was before the U.S. Surgeon General's warning about the health risks of cigarettes, and these days we know better. Yet knowing and doing can be two different things: Plenty of real-life couples still mimic the movies, smoking not just after sex but while watching TV, talking about the family budget, drinking coffee, or discussing problems. Need to stall when your partner asks why the checkbook balance is so anemic? Take a drag before you answer. Waiting on your always-late beloved? Temper your anger with a smoke.

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    Unusual Ways to Quit Smoking

    Quitting smoking is tough. But it can be done -- and many people get creative to kick the habit. Take Sandi Sedberry, 44, of Rock Hill, S.C. You might say her method was motherly love. Sedberry smoked for 26 years. Last November, when she discovered that her 19-year-old son, Ricky, had picked up the habit, she was motivated to change. “I made a pact with him to quit together,” she says. Sedberry bought a case of chewing gum and says she walked around looking like Bessie the Cow, for about 2 months,...

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    Trouble can brew, however, when one or both spouses decide it's time to give up cigarettes. Whether they enroll in smoking cessation classes or try self-help measures, they probably aren't taking into account the role smoking plays in their relationship and the needs it serves. And so, their chances of success are dimmed.

    That's the view of Arizona researchers who say smoking can serve many functions in a relationship, and that couples who are aware of that -- and learn substitute behaviors or develop substitute rituals for smoking -- may stand a better chance of becoming long-term quitters.

    "Smoking doesn't happen in a vacuum," says Michael J. Rohrbaugh, PhD, professor of psychology and family studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson. "It becomes part of the relationship pattern and keeps it going."

    Rohrbaugh and five colleagues are studying the idea that smoking is intertwined within an intimate relationship, their work funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Drug Abuse. So far, 13 couples, ranging in age from their 30s to their 60s, are enrolled in the study. The goal over the next two years of the three-year study is to enroll a total of about 50 couples, and to determine if taking the role of smoking into account will help make them long-term nonsmokers. To qualify for the study, the couple must include at least one partner who smokes at least a half pack a day despite having a heart or lung condition.

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