Smokers: Quitting is easier with medication, counseling

Sept. 5, 2014—It takes more than a pep talk to help hospitalized smokers stop lighting up after leaving the hospital, according to a recent study in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. To boost their odds of quitting, people who smoke daily need medication to help them stop and ongoing support as they try to kick the habit.

The study found that people who smoke significantly increased their chances of staying smoke-free when they received their preferred quit-smoking medication free for up to 90 days and automated, interactive phone calls with the option to request a callback from a trained counselor.

About the study

The study involved 397 adults hospitalized between 2010 and 2012. All of them smoked daily and received tobacco cessation counseling in the hospital, and all wanted to stop smoking when they left the hospital.

The researchers randomly divided participants into two groups: Those in one group were prescribed a specific quit-smoking medicine when they were discharged. They were advised to call a free telephone quit line. In contrast, participants in the other group received a free 30-day supply of their preferred quit-smoking medicine that could be refilled twice. This group also received five automated phone calls that provided advice and support messages, encouraged proper use of medication, and offered refills. During these calls, they could request a callback from a counselor if they were having a hard time staying smoke-free, if they needed a medication refill or if they were struggling with their medicine. Participants in both groups received three follow-up calls tracking their progress.

After six months, 26 percent of those who received the extra help had not used any tobacco product—as confirmed by a saliva or breath test—in the past seven days, compared to 15 percent of those in the other group. Overall, the proportion of those who successfully quit was 71 percent higher in the group with extra support.

Read the study here.

The take-home message
As this study suggests, the more support you have, the more likely you are to succeed at stopping smoking—a habit that’s to blame for nearly 1 in 5 deaths nationwide, according to the American Cancer Society.

So if you’re trying to quit, good for you. Yes, it can be tough. But more than 50 million Americans have quit smoking for good. And you have a greater chance of joining them if you turn to:

Your doctor. Tell him or her that you want to stop and ask about your medication options. There are a variety of stop-smoking medicines available, including nicotine-replacement products that ease cravings—such as patches, gums and inhalers— and prescription medications that help reduce withdrawal and the urge to smoke, such as bupropion or varenicline.


A smoking quit line. You can call the National Cancer Institute’s quit line at 877.44U.QUIT (877.448.7848) to speak with trained counselors Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time. It also offers recorded messages that can help you resist the urge to smoke. You can also call 800.QUIT.NOW (800.784.8669) to connect with your state’s toll-free quit line.

LiveHelp instant messaging. Go to to chat with a smoking cessation counselor who can give you one-on-one help Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time.

One final tip: Never quit trying. Quitting for good often takes several attempts.


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