Kicking Butts in the Twenty-First Century: What Modern Science Has Learned about Smoking Cessation

By ACSH Staff — Aug 01, 2003

Executive Summary

Cigarette smoking is a very widespread and serious health problem. More than 46 million American adults smoke, and smoking contributes to more than 430,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Nearly 70% of smokers want to quit, and nearly 41% say that they have attempted to quit at least once in the past year.

Only about 4-5% of smokers who to try to quit each year succeed in stopping smoking permanently. However, after repeated attempts, nearly 40 to 50% of smokers eventually succeed in quitting.

Counseling, drug therapy (nicotine replacement therapy or other forms of medication), or both methods in combination can substantially increase the likelihood of successful smoking cessation.

Five forms of nicotine replacement therapy gum, inhaler, lozenge, nasal spray, and patch have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of nicotine dependence. The drug bupropion has also been approved for this purpose. Scientific evidence indicates that two other drugs clonidine and nortriptyline are also effective in helping some smokers quit. However, at present, these two drugs have not been approved by the FDA for this purpose, although they are approved for other uses. No other drugs have been shown to be effective as smoking cessation treatments.

Support groups, individual counseling, and telephone counseling have been shown to improve quit rates. The effectiveness of Internet programs to help smokers quit is currently being evaluated. Self-help materials and programs have not been documented as effective when used alone.

"Alternative" therapies for smoking cessation, including acupuncture, hypnosis, and herbal remedies, have not been proven effective. Some alternative therapies may be hazardous, and some herbal remedies may interact in detrimental ways with prescription or over the counter medications.

Smoking cessation treatment is not integrated into the general U.S. healthcare system at the present time and may not be covered by health insurance. Considering the substantial health costs of smoking, smoking cessation interventions should be strongly encouraged and fully integrated into the healthcare system.

Also see our site for teens detailing the specific health effects of smoking:

Kicking Butts in the Twenty-First Century: What Modern Science Has Learned about Smoking Cessation