Researchers seek ex-smokers to test program
Tobacco companies lost them. Now science beckons them.
Tampa researchers want Fort Myers ex-smokers to test a federally funded program that helps former smokers stay tobacco free.
Fort Myers is one of seven locations selected to participate in the study.
With funding from the National Institutes of Health, researchers from the University of South Florida and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center are trying to reduce the number of smokers who have trouble breaking their habit.
About 95 percent of the people who quit smoking relapse, said Thomas Brandon, the studyâ€™s lead investigator and associate professor of psychology at USF.
Of the 17 million Americans who attempt to quit smoking every year, only 1.3 million are able to break the habit for good.
Itâ€™s a very, very powerful addiction thatâ€™s hard to break, said Lisa Munizza, tobacco program consultant with the American Lung Association.
Researchers think they can help by simply sending information through the mail.
Called Forever Quit, the USF program sends booklets to ex-smokers to help them cope with ending their addiction.
If successful, the program eventually may become available nationwide.
This is a whole different approach to get people to stop smoking, Brandon said.
Many options are available for smokers who want to become nonsmokers smoking cessation classes, support groups, nicotine gum, the patch.
Still, it takes smokers at least five attempts to stop smoking before they quit for good, Munizza said.
The key for researchers is to prevent that relapse. Theyâ€™ve focused on smoking cessation clinics that get smokers to change their behaviors.
Such classes double success rates, Brandon said, but few Americans take the classes.
Itâ€™s very hard getting people to a clinic, Brandon said. Thereâ€™s a need to discover new ways to reach people.
A new way was discovered when Brandon and other researchers developed the Forever Quit program and first tested it in New York.
A survey of smokers found that most preferred to quit smoking on their own with additional help from a hot line and mailed information.
The hot line didnâ€™t really work, Brandon said. But the booklets worked really, really well.
The booklets reduced relapse by two-thirds, Brandon said.
As a result, the NIH agreed to fund another study with $740,000 to see if researchers could replicate the same results.
This time researchers are targeting ex-smokers in Fort Myers, Sarasota/Bradenton, Tampa/St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Orlando, the Panhandle and Atlanta.
Ex-smokers will receive booklets that address such issues as stress, weight gain and setbacks.
About 700 people will participate in the study.