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The power to be smoke-free

Every year one of the biggest New Year’s resolutions is to give up smoking cigarettes. But the majority of Americans are either unsuccessful in quitting smoking or end up relapsing once they have quit.

“Every year about 70 percent of Americans say they want to quit, and 30 percent actually attempt to quit. For any given quit attempt, only 5 percent are successful,” said Thomas Brandon, director of the Tobacco Research and Intervention program at Moffitt Cancer Center and a professor in the Department of Psychology at USF.

In order to help people quit and stay smoke-free, Brandon has devised a relapse prevention program that is the result of two research studies done over the past several years.

The relapse program that was created by Brandon consists of a series of eight booklets on various topics that revolve around staying smoke-free. The booklets are an average of 12 to 16 pages each, and the topics include smoking and health, what to do if you have a cigarette, weight control and lifestyle balance.

The series of booklets, titled “Forever Free,” is available through the National Cancer Institutes Web site, , and is not the first attempt made by an organization to help smokers quit and stay habit-free.

“It’s not a new observation. Twenty years ago, the idea came about to develop these relapse prevention programs. These programs really work, but they have always been included as part of a treatment program. So you came to a clinic and besides getting help quitting smoking, they also tried to prepare you to prevent a relapse,” Brandon said.

The only problem with the treatment programs was that only 5 percent of smokers wanted to go to some kind of clinic.

“Our idea was to see if we can develop something that would be appealing to a greater number of smokers than just those few that go to a clinic, but which could be focused on relapse prevention,” Brandon said.

The first research study done by Moffitt on devising a relapse prevention program sent out surveys to participants in order to get feedback about what methods of relapse prevention appealed to them most. The two methods that were chosen the most were a telephone hotline and a series of booklets that could be mailed to a smoker over the course of a year.

After the survey, both methods were attempted, and it turned out that the telephone hotline was unsuccessful, while the series of booklets got a big response. The study involved around 447 people and had four control groups. One group got the hotline, another one got the booklets, a third one got both and the last group got nothing. The group that received the booklets began getting one every month and then the frequency decreased, Brandon said.

After the results of the study were published in 2000, another research study was conducted to determine the cost-effectiveness per year of lives saved in regards to the series of booklets.

“In the field of health economics, currently the threshold is about $50,000 per year of life saved. This is considered to be cost-effective. If it is more than $50,000 then it’s not considered cost-effective, but there are some exceptions to this,” Brandon said.

According to Brandon, smoking cessation usually costs about $5,000 to $7,000 per year of life saved and this includes using aides to quit smoking such as the patch or going to a clinic for help. The booklets only cost an average of $81 per year, and since the booklets are now available on the Internet, it is even cheaper, Brandon said.

Moffitt is looking for people who are smokers and are thinking about quitting the habit. For more information call 1-877-KICK IT.