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Although Most Smokers Want to Quit… Only a Fraction Actually Do

Fri, Nov 11, 2011

Oral Cancer News

Source: The Wall Street Journal
Author: Betsy McKay

 

More than two-thirds of American smokers want to quit, but only a fraction actually do, underscoring a need for more services, messages, and access to medications to help them kick the habit, according to a new government report out today.

Nearly 69% of adult smokers wanted to quit in 2010 and more than half tried, but only 6.2% succeeded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Those who try to quit can double or triple their chances with counseling or medications, but most of those who did try to quit in 2010 didn’t use either. Nor did they receive advice on how to quit from a doctor.

The findings suggest more needs to be done to help smokers quit — particularly certain segments of the population with low quit rates, said Tim McAfee, director of the public health agency’s Office on Smoking and Health, in an interview.

Nearly 76% of African-American smokers wanted to quit last year, and 59% tried — well above the national average, said McAfee. But a mere 3.2% succeeded, which is the lowest rate among measured races and ethnicities. American smokers with college degrees had a far higher rate of success at quitting — 11.4% — than smokers with fewer than 12 years of schooling, who had only a 3.2% success rate.

Still, McAfee said, there are some encouraging signs. For example, the percentage of young adults between the ages of 25 and 44 who want to quit has climbed over the past decade. “We think that’s incredibly important and the influence perhaps of large policy shifts in the U.S.” such as smoke-free laws and excise taxes, he said. (By contrast, interest in quitting in some other countries, such as China, is low.)

State Medicaid programs are now required as part of health reform to pay for smoking cessation services for pregnant women, and the federal government also now allows states to provide coverage for medicines and counseling for other Medicaid recipients.

But “we lost some momentum” in enacting smoke-free laws, McAfee said. Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C., have comprehensive smoke-free laws in place but none has been added to the list so far in 2011. The most recent state to go smoke-free was South Dakota, last November.

A court-ordered temporary halt earlier this week to a government plan to put graphic warning labels on cigarette packs could also set back efforts to get people to smoke, McAfee said.

That’s not only because the images — such as one of a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a hole in his throat — are meant to discourage smoking, but the planned labels also include telephone quitline information. A federal judge ordered the temporary halt after tobacco companies argued it would violate their constitutional right to free speech.

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