The past 20 years have seen a flurry of new smoking cessation interventions from media campaigns to high taxes to nicotine patches and other pharmaceutical interventions. One would hope that with so many technological and policy advances, smoking cessation rates would be steadily increasing. Not so, suggests a recent study in the journal Tobacco Control. In fact, over the past two decades, there has been no increasing trend in smoking cessation rates in the American population, despite so many new efforts.
Researchers led by Dr. Shu-Hong Zhu at the University of California, San Diego, analyzed the literature regarding smoking cessation and related interventions from 1991 to 2010. They found that, while many new smoking cessation products came out during this time period, the National Health Interview Surveys showed that smoking cessation rates had actually stagnated. While cessation rates fluctuated over time, there was no overall upward trend to speak of.
This is an important study, comments ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. Despite all of the efforts being made over the years, quit rates have not gone up. Clearly, all of these new interventions that are being touted just aren t doing the job. This is consistent with the fact that the rate of smoking among adults in the U.S. has remained steady around the 20 percent level for the past five or six years, in addition to a recent study thatdemonstrated that the FDA-approved nicotine patches are not effective at helping smokers quit.
ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan observes that this study further emphasizes the need to consider alternative methods of helping smokers quit. Cleaner nicotine delivery systems could be one of these answers, she notes. While smoking cessation rates in the U.S. have been flat over the last 20 years, we see that in Sweden where snus (a form of smokeless tobacco that is far less harmful than smoking) have become widely available and accepted men s smoking rates have been declining significantly. Dr. Whelan posits that in light of the failure of new methods to improve the American population s cessation rates, such harm-reducing alternatives may have an important role to play.