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Smoking Cessation Health Center

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Long-Term Treatment May Be Best Way to Help Smokers Quit

Study Suggests That Treating Smoking Like a Chronic Disease May Help Smokers Break Habit

Most Smokers Want to Quit

Surveys consistently show that more than 3 out of 4 smokers would like to quit. While about a third try to quit each year, only about 10% are successful.

The best smoking-cessation programs combine behavioral counseling with nicotine replacement, but most last only two or three months, Joseph tells WebMD.

Many people who quit smoking during treatment end up relapsing after the programs end.

While U.S. health officials consider tobacco dependence a chronic disease like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, the current strategies for promoting smoking cessation do not reflect this, Joseph says.

In an effort to assess the impact of a treatment strategy that looks at smoking as a chronic disease, Joseph and colleagues recruited 443 smokers for their study.

Half of the participants received free nicotine-replacement therapy along with behavioral therapy that consisted of at least five telephone counseling calls, including an initial call to choose a quit date and a nicotine-replacement therapy (gum, patch, or lozenge).

The other half received the same treatment along with additional telephone counseling and nicotine replacement treatments, if needed, for an additional 48 weeks.

Benefits of Long-Term Treatment

At 18 months, 30% of the participants in the long-term group reported at least six months prolonged abstinence from cigarettes compared to 23% of those in the short-term group.

People in the long-term group also tried to quit more often over the course of the year and even among those who didn't successfully quit, they did smoke less.

The researchers concluded that incorporating failures, setting short-term goals, and continuing care was roughly 75% more effective than less intensive treatment for helping smokers become nonsmokers.

Smoking-cessation specialist Patricia Folan, RN, says treating tobacco addiction like a chronic disease makes sense.

Folan directs the Center for Tobacco Control for the North Shore LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.

"We would never think of stopping treatment in a patient with high blood pressure or diabetes when they don't reach treatment goals right away," she tells WebMD. "Medical management of these chronic conditions is an ongoing process."

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