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Never too late: The newest in tobacco cessation

Feb. 18, 2015
Tobacco and smoking cessation continue to be vital to an individual's health and well-being. It is especially beneficial to oral health. Get the latest on support groups and research from Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS.

For smokers trying to quit, it is important to know that it is never too late. Tobacco cessation will enhance health, extend life, and save money; perhaps former smokers can set an example for others as well. People who are trying to quit can learn from their past experiences and mistakes and achieve success as they move forward. They can recruit the assistance of family and friends, and share experiences with others.

Keep reading for the newest in tobacco research and news.

Support programs and more
The American Lung Association offers the Freedom From Smoking program, a support group is available online or in a group setting. The toll-free helpline is 1-800-LUNGUSA. The hotline is staffed with smoking cessation experts who can answer questions and help devise plans to quit. Medication helps many to stop, and there are several FDA-approved medications (e.g., nicotine patches and gum) that assist smokers to quit. (1) All smokers can quit, so it is important to be persistent, and find out what works best for you or your patients.

In related news, join the LUNG FORCE movement by taking the pledge to spread awareness of the risks of lung cancer, act to reduce these risks, and raise your voice for change! There are helpful tools for those facing lung cancers, tips for communicating with the care team, questions for lung cancer care team treatment, and medication organization worksheets.

ADDITIONAL RESEARCH | Tobacco cessation posters for dental hygienists

Recent research
A new study links breast cancer, prostate cancer, and routine infections to tobacco use, and states that an additional 60,000 to 120,000 deaths each year in the United States are probably due to tobacco use. (2) Death among current smokers is two to three times higher than among persons who never smoked. Most of this excess mortality is thought to be due to 21 common diseases formally recognized as caused by cigarette smoking. They are included in official estimates of smoking-attributable mortality in the United States. However, if smoking causes additional diseases, these official estimates may considerably miscalculate the number of deaths linked to smoking. The authors concluded that “a substantial portion of the excess mortality among current smokers between 2000 and 2011 was due to associations with diseases that have not been formally established as caused by smoking” (2).

Smoking has been connected to increased age-related thinning of the outer layer of the brain (i.e., the cortex). Good news! This damage to the cortex may be reversible after quitting—however, it could take years to recover. (3) Smokers should be aware that cigarettes are associated with accelerated cortical thinning, a biomarker of cognitive ageing.

A healthy lifestyle might prevent coronary heart disease in almost 75% of women. (4) Women who had six healthy lifestyle habits were 92% less likely to develop coronary heart disease than those who didn't have these habits. The healthy lifestyle habits assessed were not smoking, more than 2.5 hours of weekly physical activity, a healthy diet, a normal body-mass index, an average of less than 1 alcoholic drink daily, and less than 7 hours weekly television watching.

How can we help others quit?
There are several ways to assist with tobacco cessation. A new study shows that financial incentives help pregnant women quit smoking:

“The control group received routine care, which was the offer of a face to face appointment to discuss smoking and cessation and, for those who attended and set a quit date, the offer of free nicotine replacement therapy for 10 weeks provided by pharmacy services, and four, weekly support phone calls.

The intervention group received routine care plus the offer of up to £400 of shopping vouchers: £50 for attending a face to face appointment and setting a quit date; then another £50 if at four weeks’ post-quit date exhaled carbon monoxide confirmed quitting; a further £100 was provided for continued validated abstinence of exhaled carbon monoxide after 12 weeks; a final £200 voucher was provided for validated abstinence of exhaled carbon monoxide at 34-38 weeks’ gestation… This phase II randomised controlled trial provides substantial evidence for the efficacy of incentives for smoking cessation in pregnancy.” (5)

Remember, it is never too late! There are many benefits to stopping smoking. 20 minutes after quitting, heart rate and blood pressure drop. Two weeks to three months after quitting, circulation improves and lung function increases. (6) For more benefits, visit the American Cancer Society website.

1. FDA 101: Smoking cessation products. FDA website. Accessed February 18 2015.
2. Carter BD, Abnet CC, Feskanich D, et al. Smoking and mortality—Beyond established causes. N Engl J Med. 2015;372:631-640.
3. Karama S, Ducharme S, Corley J,et al. Cigarette smoking and thinning of the brain’s cortex [published online ahead of print Feburary 10 2015]. Mol Psychiatry. 2015. doi: 10.1038/mp.2014.187.
4. Arnett DK. Healthy habits, healthy Women. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65:52-54.
5. Tappin D, Bauld D, Purves D, et al. Financial incentives for smoking cessation in pregnancy: Randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2015;350:h134. doi: 10.1136/bmj.h134.
6. When smokers quit — What are the benefits over time? American Cancer Society Website. Accessed February 18 2015.

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, is the editorial director of RDH eVillage FOCUS.