Americans split on whether positive or negative imagery aids nicotine quit attempts


CHICAGO — An online survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association found Americans are split on whether positive or negative health messages are more likely to help tobacco and nicotine users reduce their use of those substances or quit.

Positive health information about the benefits of quitting was believed to be more likely to help someone reduce use of or quit using tobacco or nicotine by 34% of Americans, while 33% thought health information focused on the harmful effects of tobacco/nicotine is more likely to help.

"What's often missing — and most difficult to prescribe — is a support network dedicated to health goals," stated Richard Bryce, an osteopathic family physician practicing at the Community Health and Social Services Center, a federally qualified health center in Detroit.  "As an osteopathic physician, I'm an integral member of their quit team. Together, we identify reasonable lifestyle alterations that can reduce temptation and empower change."

Adjusting the patient-physicians interaction to focus on creating quit "wins" can reset the conversation, and ultimately improve outcomes, Bryce added. On average, patients require seven quit attempts before they achieve success. "Every quit counts," he noted.

The March poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults revealed many Americans (23%) think collaboration with family members or friends is the most effective aid for a tobacco/nicotine user who is trying to quit. Nicotine replacement products such as patches, gum or mouth spray were believed the second most effective (22%) followed by prescription quitting medication (17%).

Nearly half of smokers try to quit each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and the majority of tobacco and nicotine users say they want to quit.  Tobacco and nicotine use is the largest preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S. and a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other common chronic diseases. However, only 4% to 7% of smokers are successful in quitting each year. The poll found varying opinions on the helpfulness of quit supports.


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