Smokers Need More Than Motivation To Quit
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:
And I'm Linda Wertheimer.
NPR: quitting smoking. There's still some 46 million smokers in the United States, but now there's an even larger group of ex-smokers. In a moment, we'll hear about an innovative program for low-income people trying to quit. First, NPR's Brenda Wilson reports on how antismoking efforts have evolved over the decades.
BRENDA WILSON: It's been nearly half a century since U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry declared that smoking had been linked to lung cancer and was hazardous to health. Smoking in the United States has been on the decline. Has been on the decline ever since.
ANN MALARCHER: Physicians started telling their patients about the dangers of tobacco use and letting them know that they should quit smoking.
WILSON: Dr. Ann Malarcher of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says smoke-free policies were mainly a patchwork in the early years after the surgeon general's report. Warnings were placed on cigarette packets. Radio and television cigarette ads were banned. Malarcher says people who wanted to quit were left to their own devices.
MALARCHER: Avoiding places were they typically smoked, avoiding situations where they wanted to have a cigarette, removing all tobacco products from their house, perhaps avoiding other smokers for a while.
WILSON: As other states followed suit and smoking became less socially acceptable, the smoking rate fell to where it is today: 20 percent. John Hughes, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont, works with people who have not been moved by these changes.
JOHN HUGHES: Well, public health messages - such as the media and increasing taxes and worksite restrictions - are very important in motivating people to quit. But they don't help them quit.
WILSON: Especially the hard-core smokers, he says.
HUGHES: There are some people that you can motivate and motivate and motivate, and they can't quit.
WILSON: Combined with medication, Hughes says, these methods are much more effective than trying to quit cold turkey. But most people don't avail themselves of drugs or counseling. Cost is a barrier, but the bigger reason, Hughes says, is that people think they ought to be able to quit on their own.
HUGHES: I think it's because, you know, if you have drug abuse and you get over it on your own, you don't tell anybody about it. But if you quit smoking, if there's a conversation on smoking, you brag and tell about it. So I think people hear about other people who were fortunate enough to be able to do it on their own, and don't hear about the people that are struggling.
WILSON: But Simon Chapman at the University of Sydney in Australia says quitting smoking has become too medicalized.
SIMON CHAPMAN: The subtext of that is if you try to do it alone, you're unlikely to succeed.
WILSON: But Chapman and Hughes have conducted research that was funded by pharmaceutical companies. Even so, Chapman fears the balance in smoking control tilts towards the drug industry.
CHAPMAN: My objection is to the megaphoning, the drowning out effect of the hugely resourced messages which are going out to the community which are saying if you want to quit, don't try to do it alone.
WILSON: Brenda Wilson, NPR News.
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