U studies ways to help smokers quit

Despite available methods and products to reduce tobacco dependence, a 2003 University health survey has found the average University smoker unsuccessfully tried to quit 3.23 times last year.

“It’s so good,” said Maria Larenas, an architecture graduate student who finds quitting difficult. “I guess you’re addicted, but it calms you down.”

University researchers are studying better methods to help people stop, including a nicotine vaccine. They said some products smokers use to quit might reduce few of the effects of tobacco.

Wanting to quit

“It’s hard to quit, and it is not just a matter of willpower,” said Nadya Sabuwala, a Boynton Health Service community program specialist.

The American Lung Association found that more than 46.2 million adults in the United States smoke despite most of them wanting to quit.

Larenas said she quit for three years.

“But I started so young,” she said. “It was really easy to restart.”

Sometimes failed attempts are necessary, Sabuwala said.

“When someone tries to quit and fails, they learn something about what makes them go back to smoking,” she said.

Boynton offers counseling to reduce the risk of relapse after quitting, she said.

But Sabuwala said many smokers are not ready.

“They know that there is a danger from smoking, but they are just not in the right place to quit yet,” she said.

Cutting back

Dr. Dorothy Hatsukami, director of the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center, has been involved in studies about reducing tobacco’s effects.

Hatsukami is completing research on a nicotine vaccine. The vaccine would reduce much of the pleasure from smoking by creating antibodies in the bloodstream that attach to nicotine, she said.

The vaccine will not be available for several years, Hatsukami said, and will be used as a method of treatment rather than prevention.

Hatsukami and Sabuwala said people who reduce consumption or smoke light cigarettes compensate for the loss of nicotine by taking deeper puffs and more drags of their cigarettes. They might also cover ventilation holes on the filter to get as much nicotine from a light cigarette as an unfiltered one.

Modified tobacco products, which heat the tobacco instead of burning it, seem to have some benefits, Hatsukami said.

In tests, her group found that Omni cigarettes, a modified tobacco product, produced about 20 percent less of one carcinogen.

Eclipse cigarettes, which use heated tobacco instead of burned tobacco, decrease many toxins but increase the carbon monoxide yield, she said.

Though these methods and products offer some reduced harm, medicinal nicotine replacement therapy offers better reduction, Hatsukami said.

Medicinal nicotine, which is available in patches, inhalers, gum, lozenges – and soon nicotine-laced water – gives a person’s body the nicotine it craves without the effects of other quitting techniques.

Kicking it

If there was a cure, shot or pill that cured smoking, Larenas said she would consider trying it.

But Sabuwala said there is no cure-all nicotine product.

“Every student is different,” she said. “By (a student) coming in, we can tailor a quitting plan for the individual.”

Although students such as Larenas continue puffing, the number of first-year University students who smoke has declined steadily since 1998, according to a Boynton survey.