July 24, 2013

New Methods Show Promise to Help Smokers Quit

Researcher calls for new federal performance standards for nicotine and toxicants in tobacco products


Innovative techniques and some of the latest advances in research to help smokers quit are the focus of various presentations at the American Psychological Association’s 121st Annual Convention. Researchers will examine how smokers respond to dramatically reducing nicotine levels in cigarettes, text messages that can help smokers curb cravings and how medication may be key to helping women avoid lighting up when stressed. 


Presentations listed below will take place at the Hawai’i Convention Center, 1801 Kalakaua Ave., or the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort, 2005 Kalia Rd., Honolulu, Hawai’i.


Dorothy K. Hatsukami, PhD, University of Minnesota, will present “Endgame for Tobacco Control: Biology to Policy,” (PDF, 228KB) invited address 3168, Friday, Aug. 2, 11-11:50 a.m. HST, Convention Center, room 304B

New federal standards lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes so that they are no longer addictive could significantly reduce the number of tobacco-related deaths, according to Hatsukami. Currently, 443,000 deaths per year in the U.S. and 5 million worldwide are attributed to tobacco use. She will discuss research that found when smokers switch to cigarettes with less than one milligram of nicotine, they tend to smoke less, report being less dependent on these cigarettes, are exposed to fewer toxins and find it easier to quit smoking altogether. In addition, making cigarettes less appealing by eliminating flavors and designing them to deliver fewer toxic chemicals to the lungs are other ways to reduce the appeal and dangerous health effects of cigarettes, she says. Methods to deal with nicotine withdrawal and alternative sources of nicotine delivery are also among the topics Hatsukami will explore. 

Sherry A. McKee, PhD, Yale University School of Medicine, will present “Why Is It More Difficult for Women to Quit Smoking? Translating Knowledge Into Practice,” (PDF, 84KB) symposium session 3214, Friday, Aug. 2, 12-12:50 p.m. HST, Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort, Lehua Suite, 2nd floor, Kalia Executive Conference Center

Medications that reduce stress levels may be one way to help women who are having a difficult time quitting smoking, according to McKee. Taking medication originally marketed for hypertension helped both women and men control their habit. For women only, the drug also greatly improved physiological stress responses, according to McKee’s laboratory and clinical studies. 

Beth C. Bock, PhD, Brown University, will present “Developing a Text Message Intervention for Smoking Cessation With Peer-to-Peer Support,” (PDF, 148KB) poster session 1234, Wednesday, July 31, 1-1:50 p.m. HST, Convention Center, Kamehameha Exhibit Hall, level 1

Sending smokers text messages that specifically encourage them to quit is more effective than generic motivational text messaging, according to research findings Bock will discuss. After six months of treatment, 17 percent of participants in her study who received smoking cessation text messages had abstained from smoking compared to 4 percent of a control group. “These results indicate that mobile technology has significant potential for aiding smoking cessation using methods that are already integrated into people’s everyday lives,” Bock says.

Dorothy Hatsukami can be contacted by email or by phone at (612) 626-2121.

Sherry McKee can be contacted by email or by phone at (203) 737-3529.

Beth Bock can be contacted by email or by phone at (401) 793-8020.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 134,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.