The Buzz Mark Twain said it best: "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times." Studies show that, without help, only 10 to 30 percent of ex-smokers retain that status a year after they quit. A new study by researchers at the University of South Florida found a low-cost remedy: mailing ex-smokers a set of eight self-help booklets within six months after they quit. The booklets suggest other ways to handle stress: relaxation tapes, exercise, gum, calling a friend.
The Findings The year-long study involved 431 adults who had been smoke-free for a week. Of the 115 who were given the eight pamphlets at the start of the trial, 71 percent said a year later that they hadn't lit another cigarette. Other tactics -- handing patients only one overview booklet, giving them the overview plus periodic letters of encouragement and mailing the booklets one at a time during the year -- all proved less effective.
What's Next? Study author Thomas Brandon, a psychology professor at the University of South Florida and director of the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, said he hopes the study's findings will draw notice from insurers and medical providers. Typical smoking cessation programs cost up to $5,000 per person per year; a year's worth of booklets cost only $83.
Brandon's group also is conducting a study to find the best way to help women who kick smoking during pregnancy remain tobacco-free after giving birth.
The American Cancer Society is launching a clinical trial for Internet users who want to quit smoking. The free one-year program will be the largest Web-based smoking cessation program in the United States. Participation is limited to the first 6,000 English-speakers to sign up at www.cancer.org/quittobacco.
-- Rebecca Adams