Fewer Smokers Today, But Habit Is Just As Hard To Quit

By Dennis Douda, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New research shows that there are 7 percent fewer pack-a-day smokers in America than 50 years ago. And according to the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey, since 1999 the number of smokers has fallen by more than 27 percent.

One other interesting fact, more than half of adult smokers have tried to quit in the past year, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

“It’s really the addiction that keeps them smoking,” said Dr. Taylor Hays.

Hays, the Associate Director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at Mayo Clinic, has great compassion for smokers.

“I wish there was a silver bullet. I don’t have one,” said Hays.

He applauds new data showing declining smoking rates. He credits public smoking bans, higher tobacco taxes and changing social norms and said he’s genuinely excited to see evidence that it’s making a real difference in Americans’ health.

One example is in California, where a 20-year-long tobacco control program has reduced smoking prevalence to about 14 percent.

“They are now seeing a much lower rate of serious diseases, especially lung cancer and cardiovascular disease like heart attacks and strokes,” said Hays.

Want to quit? Hays says three simple steps are your best path to success: Get motivated, get a plan which should include medications and counseling, and set a quit date and stick with it.

“The most important thing is to be motivated to change,” he said.

Hays said getting free of nicotine’s grip takes time. Their in-house residential dependence center is an 8-day program. Really getting off the cigarettes may take you 8 to 12 weeks and even then, be ready for setbacks.

“Urges to smoke are still going to happen to them as they go along, but they have to make a few changes. Sometimes it’s as simple as moving the chair out of the living room where they always sit and smoke or taking the dog for a walk rather than turning on the coffee pot and then sitting down for their first cigarette,” he said.

You may have to quit more than once. Fewer than one-out-of-four people can stay off the smokes for a full year.

Mayo’s residence program has about a 50 percent success rate, but Hayes said there’s always hope.

To find help quitting, QUITPLAN, Mayo Clinic, and becomeanx.org.


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