The ‘most successful way’ to quit smoking, according to NJ expert

How many times have you tried to get rid of your nicotine addiction?

You may have more success this week beginning November 17 knowing that countless smokers across New Jersey and the United States are attempting to quit at the same time.

The Great American Smokeout, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, encourages smokers to give up smoking or vaping for a day and see if they can continue.

‚ÄúSometimes the first 24 hours are the most difficult. If people get through the first week or so, they usually do very well,” said Michael Steinberg, medical director of the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies.

Nearly 1 million New Jersey residents are said to smoke tobacco, and about half of all smokers die from related diseases.

“Most successful way” to quit smoking

Tero Vesalainen

Tero Vesalainen

Withdrawal symptoms and cravings can last six to eight weeks in long-time cigarette users, Steinberg found. Symptoms can include irritability, difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and increased appetite.

But these symptoms don’t have to be that strong.

“To me, when we have such an effective treatment available in our communities, it just doesn’t make sense for someone to try to quit on their own without help,” Steinberg said.

The success rate of a cold turkey attempt is about 3%, he said. With a more complete approach, the odds can be about 10 times greater.

“The most successful way people can quit is with a comprehensive approach that includes behavioral counseling, good support and follow-up care, and one or more FDA-approved medications,” Steinberg said.

Bupropion and varenicline are two types of drugs that are FDA approved, along with nicotine replacement therapies such as gum, patches, and inhalers. Some are available on store shelves, others require a prescription.

“We tend to tell people that you’ve been smoking for 20, 30, 40 years – if you’re using medication to help you quit smoking that you’re going to stay three or six months, it’s really not that long . ‘ Steinberg said.

And after that period, users can wean themselves off these drugs so that they don’t get nicotine in their system.

This page provides resources in New Jersey related to quitting, including the locations of 11 “quit centers” statewide.

The New Jersey Quitline can be reached at 1-866-NJ-STOPS.

Smoking Rates in New Jersey

aquarius83men, ThinkStock

aquarius83men, ThinkStock

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, 10.8% of adults smoked cigarettes regularly in 2020.

Among minors, the percentage is much lower (about 4%), but advocates are concerned about the growing addiction of youth to nicotine through electronic device use.

And while smoking rates have declined statewide and nationally over the past few decades, gains have been patchy.

“In a study published in JAMA Network Open, we found high smoking prevalence and lower smoking cessation rates in rural than urban areas,” said Andrea Villati, associate director of the Rutgers Center for Tobacco Studies. “In addition to where people live, other research shows that there are differences in tobacco use based on social and demographic factors such as race and ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability status, socioeconomic status, and/or behavioral health status.”

Much work is needed to reduce tobacco use in patients with substance use disorders, depression and other mental illnesses, Steinberg added.

While most psychiatrists ask patients if they smoke and advise them to quit, a much smaller percentage assist patients in making smoking cessation plans or arranging a follow-up visit, according to the center’s research.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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