Letter to the editor:

Quitting smoking? Go cold turkey

Sat, Mar 24, 2012 (2:01 a.m.)

Cy Ryan’s March 19 online article, “TV ad campaign aimed at curbing tobacco use,” reviews the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new hard-hitting quit-smoking campaign, which uses tragic tobacco-victim stories to motivate cessation. It’d be great if the campaign could reduce Nevada’s 3,300 annual smoking-related deaths or its 21 percent smoking rate, but it’s unlikely.

It isn’t that fear can’t motivate. It’s the failure of CDC to immediately channel that fear into a meaningful cessation opportunity. The new campaign pipelines motivated smokers to either SmokeFree.gov or 800-QUIT-NOW, where the primary objective is to get smokers to obtain and use the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, spray, inhaler, Zyban or Chantix.

While approved quitting products clobber placebo controls in random clinical trials, they get clobbered by cold-turkey quitters in real-world population level studies. Current U.S. cessation policy has been heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry. Since 2000, U.S. cessation policy has stressed “medication” for “all” quitters unless contraindicated.

More Nevada long-term smokers quit smoking cold turkey each year than by all other methods combined. Sadly, the quitting-with-medication era, with its false “double your chances” promise, has brought successful cessation to its knees.

What sense does it make for the CDC to continue to discourage quitting cold turkey? The CDC either needs to suspend current cessation policy or clean house, employing a cessation team that doesn’t behave like pharmaceutical industry employees.

The author is a nicotine cessation educator and director of WhyQuit.com.

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