Want to quit smoking in the new year? Here’s how

It’s almost a new year, which means many people will attempt to become brand new versions of their 2017 selves. And as far as New Year’s resolutions go, many smokers will try to finally kick the habit in 2018. Related: Tobacco Companies Admit Smoking Will Kill You, Thanks to Federally Mandated Ads   Keep up with this story and more According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 36.5 million American adults smoked cigarettes as of 2015. Among Americans who smoke, 68 percent say they want to quit for good, the CDC reports.But giving up cigarettes isn’t easy, as most smokers can attest. Nicotine is addictive and causes your body to go through withdrawal when it doesn’t receive a constant supply. In addition to the immediate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, people who quit smoking may continue to struggle with breaking the habit long after those initial challenges subside.Recent studies have shown that some people have a harder time than others giving up cigarettes. In a 2015 study published in Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers found that smokers who had an easier time quitting cigarettes had more activity in an area of the brain that helps regulate cravings and urges. The reason for this difference isn't clear, but the finding underscores the fact that some people have a really hard time stopping smoking. Despite the struggle, overcoming these challenges can greatly improve quality of life at any age. Within a year of breaking the addiction, coronary heart disease risk is reduced to half of what it would be when smoking, according to the American Lung Association. Within months, quitting reduces your risk of heart attack and improves lung function. And continuing the habit is dangerous. Cigarette smoking is the top risk factor for lung cancer, associated with up to 90 percent of cases. Nearly one in five deaths every year are due to Continue Reading

E-cigarettes don’t burn smokers trying to quit after all

It turns out vaping with electronic cigarettes is much more than just hot air — it may actually help people quit smoking, a new study says. The rise in e-cigarette users in England is associated with an extra 18,000 long-term smokers successfully stubbing out cigarettes last year, according to a BMJ report released Tuesday night. Contrary to concerns that vaping — the use of little electric cigarette-sized gizmos that mix vaporized water with nicotine and other flavors — undermines quitting smoking in general, the observational study noted as e-cigs have become more popular in the U.K., smoking cessation has also become more successful. The only exceptions were smokers who tried prescription nicotine replacement therapy before switching to e-cigs. They couldn’t kick the habit, researchers noted, perhaps because their first treatment had already failed. The authors cautioned they cannot draw firm conclusions about cause and effect between vaping and quitting smoking for good without more research, but at least the prevalence of e-cigs doesn’t seem to be hurting England’s attempts to smoke out tobacco use. “Something in U.K. tobacco control policy is working, and successful quitting through substitution with e-cigarettes is one likely major contributor,” wrote John Britton from the University of Nottingham in a linked editorial. “The challenge for public health is to embrace the potential of this new technology, and put it to full use.” But don’t mistake the news for suggesting vaping is safe. A number of people have been burned by the battery-operated e-cigs exploding in their pockets. The gadgets are also still delivering nicotine and other chemicals and carcinogens to smokers’ lungs. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Chantix pill may help smokers quit gradually: study

A nicotine addiction pill can help smokers quit gradually when they can't go cold turkey, a study finds, suggesting that it may be time to revisit practice guidelines that focus primarily on immediate cessation. Smokers who took the pill, sold as Chantix in the U.S. and Champix elsewhere, were much more likely to quit after cutting back on cigarettes than smokers who didn’t use the drug, the study found. "This allows us to reach a much broader population of smokers who aren't willing to quit abruptly or set a quit date, and it shows that people can quit without going cold turkey," said lead study author Dr. Jon Ebbert, a professor in primary care and internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "This is very strong support for changing clinical practice to include gradual reduction aided by medication." Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And tobacco kills one in 10 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Quitting can reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder. Ten years after quitting, the risk of lung cancer drops by half, according to the CDC. To see if Chantix, which is manufactured by Pfizer, could help smokers quit without going cold turkey, Ebbert and colleagues randomly assigned 1,510 people at 61 centers in 10 countries to receive either the drug or a placebo for 24 weeks. They asked study participants to reduce cigarette use by 50% by the fourth week, and by 75% by the eight week, with the goal of quitting by week 12. By the last ten weeks of treatment, weeks 15 to 24, the group taking the pill had significantly higher abstinence rates than the group on placebo. This held true even after treatment stopped. For weeks 21 through 52 of the study, 27% of the people who had previously taken the drug successfully avoided smoking, compared with Continue Reading

Low-dose CT scans urged to detect lung cancer in current, former heavy smokers

A prominent government health panel is recommending low-dose CT scans to screen current or former heavy smokers who are at high risk of lung cancer. “Sadly, nearly 90% of people who develop lung cancer dies from the disease, in part because it is not found until it is at an advanced stage,” said Dr. Virginia Moyer, the chairwoman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. “By screening those at high risk, we can find lung cancer at earlier stages when it’s more likely to be treatable.” The task force is an independent, voluntary group of primary care and prevention experts that reviews scientific studies and makes recommendations about about preventive services such as screenings, counseling, and preventive medications. “Based on the available evidence, the U.S Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening people who are at high risk for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans, which can prevent a substantial number of lung cancer-related deaths,” the panel announced Monday. Esther Pfeffer, a 59-year-old French translator and mother of two from New Jersey, signed up for Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center's pilot screening program. A heavy smoker from the time she was 13 until she quit in her 40s, Pfeffer had a sister who died of smoking-related lung cancer in her late 30s. Her scan showed no signs of cancer. She has to return once a year for the next two years. "This has given me peace of mind," said Pfeffer. "I do hope that they make it available to everyone and insurance will cover it. It will save lives." Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States and a devastating diagnosis for more than 200,000 men and women each year. The panel’s long-awaited recommendation was hailed by doctors and patient advocates alike, who are hopeful this will pave the way for Medicare and private insurers to cover the annual scans as they now do for Continue Reading

Gotcha! Salma Hayek, more star smokers try to hide the habit

Whatcha got there, Salma Hayek? The "Ugly Betty" star is the latest closet celebrity smoker to be exposed after she was spotted puffing away on American Spirits this weekend in Beverly Hills alongside her 1-year-old daughter, Valentina. Cameras caught the secret smoker outside Neiman Marcus as she lit up while her mom and tiny tot waited. Hayek told Marie Claire last year that she got hooked on cigarettes while filming "Frida" - and subsequently quit last April. "It's the s---iest vice you could possibly pick," she said. "I've tried to quit before. But this time I'm done with it. I've changed." But the 42-year-old isn't the only star who tries to keep her nicotine addiction under wraps for fear of a negative fan reaction. "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria Parker was desperate to keep her habit a secret after she was caught in the act while vacationing in Puerto Rico earlier this month. "She hates to be photographed smoking," says X-17 owner Frank Navarre. "But we get her once in a while."But why all the secrecy? "It's so taboo," says Antonia Russo, a Manhattan image consultant who specializes in advising performing artists.Not only does does the habit work against Hollywood's health conscious image, she says, but it's counterintuitive to being a role model for teens. "There's definitely a concept of 'people who smoke just don't care about themselves' or they're socially irresponsible," she says. As a role model, "you wouldn't want to be a part of that."Onetime closet smoker Britney Spears now openly flaunts her Marlboro Lights, while Anne Hathaway just admitted she was a smoker for years - before she quit this summer. And new mom Ashlee Simpson-Wentz was a top-secret smoker who went to great lengths to hide her habit before she became pregnant, even ducking behind a pal when one of our reporters caught her in the act last year.The American Lung Association frowns upon star smokers, but  still holds the tobacco Continue Reading

Mayor Bloomberg touts anti-smoking plan in Germany, admits shame caused him to quit

BERLIN - Drinking beats smoking, Mayor Bloomberg said Sunday at a beer-soaked street fair in the heart of Germany's capital.After scooping up an anti-smoking award, the mayor bragged that New Yorkers who smoke are now ashamed to huddle outside bars with cigarettes, while non-smokers buy more food and drinks inside."It turns out that it is economically good for the bar and restaurant business," Bloomberg said. "It's certainly good for everybody except the funeral parlors."RELATED: NOT SO FAST ON THIRD TERM, BLOOMY! SAY CITY POLSThe mayor was in Berlin to accept an award from the European Lung Foundation for his anti-smoking crusade.Along with pushing through the smoking ban, Bloomberg has made hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to stop smoking in the developing world and to encourage other municipalities to emulate New York's policy.Bloomberg acknowledged that he used to smoke two decades ago and said humiliation helped him kick the habit. RELATED: BLOOMBERG FLEXES HIS MAYORAL MUSCLE ON WORLD STAGE"Friends of mine sort of looked down on me. It was embarrassing that I was doing something that can only be described as self-destructive and not very smart," the mayor said. "It's relatively easy to stop, and once you stop, you're going to feel so much superior to those who do smoke that there's instant gratification."At a street fair near the Brandenburg Gate, Bloomberg tested his lung function at a health exhibit and his score came up perfectly normal for a 66-year-old man, he said. He later made clear that while he gave up smoking, he remains a fan of drinking, and suggested he wished he could buy booze on the street back home."Every third booth sold beer, something you cannot get at a street fair in New York - and I'm envious," he told the European Respiratory Society. "When I was a student, to me, I think it was Oktoberfest all year long, and unfortunately my grades in school showed it."Bloomberg said that while many cities and states in America have Continue Reading

Paying smokers to quit boosts success rate: study

Dangling enough dollars in front of smokers who want to quit helps many more succeed, an experiment with hundreds of General Electric Co. workers indicates. Among those paid up to $750 to quit and stay off cigarettes, 15 percent were still tobacco-free about a year later. That may not sound like much, but it's three times the success rate of a comparison group that got no such bonuses. GE was so impressed it plans to offer an incentive program nationwide next year, aiming to save some of the company's estimated $50 million annually in extra health and other costs for smoking employees. "This kind of reward system provides them with direct, positive feedback in the present," not just delayed, intangible health benefits, said Dr. Kevin Volpp, the lead researcher of the study. Volpp, who oversees the health incentives center at the University of Pennsylvania, called the study the largest ever of employer incentives to stop smoking. Several past studies failed to find higher quit rates linked to financial bonuses, but he said those included too few people or the financial incentives were too tiny, some as low as $10. The $750 was "a good incentive," said Dan Anzalone, a study participant who quit smoking cold turkey three years ago next month — after a 35-year habit. "I was getting rewarded for something that I should be doing anyway," said Anzalone, 54. "You'd be surprised at what that little incentive does." A logistics specialist at a GE plant in Schenectady, N.Y., Anzalone tried quitting with antidepressants about seven years ago but couldn't. He tried quitting on New Year's Day most years, but generally only lasted a couple days. So he signed up for Penn's federally funded study, unaware that he would be paid. Half the 878 participants, at about 85 U.S. GE sites, were put in the financial rewards group; the other half were just encouraged to join quit-smoking programs and use the company's health coverage for doctor visits and anti-smoking Continue Reading

New urine test may determine smokers’ lung cancer risk

Smokers with high levels of two chemicals in their urine were more likely than others in a study to get lung cancer, a finding that may lead to a new test to predict risk in time to prevent or treat the disease. High levels of these chemical byproducts of tobacco smoke in the urine were linked to lung-cancer rates as much as 8.5 times higher than those of other smokers, said Jian-Min Yuan, the study leader and an associate professor of public health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. He spoke in Denver today at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting. Lung tumors are the most lethal form of cancer in the U.S., spurring 161,840 deaths and 215,020 new cases in 2008, according to the American Cancer Society, based in Atlanta. While there are about 60 possible carcinogens in tobacco smoke, pinpointing byproducts, or metabolites, that may spur the malignancies may help prevention, Yuan said. “If we can identify a smoker with a high level of metabolites, and down the road they have a higher risk of lung cancer, public health workers can get them motivated to quit smoking,” Yuan said in an April 16 telephone interview. “If they can’t quit, we can do more intensive screening to find very small lung cancers that can be treated.” Yuan analyzed varying levels of metabolites in the urine of about 500 smokers drawn from the Shanghai Cohort Study and the Singapore Chinese Health Study, funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. Dividing smokers into those having high, medium and low levels of the two chemicals, the researchers followed lung cancer diagnoses for 10 years. Smokers with high levels of a byproduct called NNAL -- a known carcinogen in lab animals -- had twice the risk of getting lung cancer compared with smokers who had low levels. People with high urine levels of cotinine, a nicotine byproduct, had three times the risk of those with low levels. Smokers with high levels Continue Reading

City’s new smoking foe tells of amputations, disease and quitting

She began smoking as a teen, and even after cigarettes took limbs off her body, she kept on puffing. New York, meet Marie, Gotham's newest crusader against smoking. Like Skip Legault, the state's most recent poster boy for smoking cessation, Bronx-born Marie has Buerger's disease, a rare condition that causes blood clots and eventually destroys tissue, leading to amputations. "They were cutting off parts of my body and I wouldn't listen," Marie said at a press conference yesterday, where she declined to give her last name. "The doctor said this came from smoking. I was adamant that it didn't," she said. "If I would have stopped, maybe those 15 or 17 amputations I had, maybe I would have only had three or four." Marie, 58, began smoking as a teenager. But even after she was diagnosed with Buerger's disease in 1994 after two years of "excruciating pain," she continued to smoke two to three packs of cigarettes a day. The now-disabled computer operator wears a prosthesis below her left knee and lost part of her right foot to amputations. The mother of two also is missing parts of most of her fingers. Unlike Legault, however, Marie was eventually able to stop smoking. Two years ago, she used a nicotine patch. It was her second try at the technique, and it worked. "This time, I had a different attitude: 'I have to do this. This is crazy,'" she said. In January, the Daily News revealed that Legault, the star of the state's graphic, gut-wrenching, anti-smoking ads, still smoked. Legault said yesterday that he managed to quit for 16 days recently with the help of nicotine gum, but was "hungry 24 hours a day." He's now smoking seven to eight cigarettes a day. "I'm going to quit again next week," he said. "I'm not going to pick it up again because I found out what I needed to found out, like the first three days was murder." Though less common than lung cancer, the gruesome nature of Buerger's disease is irresistible to health officials looking to Continue Reading

Illegal market blackens lungs

New York City's steep tax on cigarettes is aimed at convincing smokers that tobacco is bad for their health - and their wallet. But a new study suggests that a booming black-market business is undercutting that effort in the poorest neighborhoods. After the city hiked its cigarette tax from 8 cents to $1.50 per pack in 2002, the number of New Yorkers getting their fix through street hawkers rose from 6% to 9%, city health officials said. "The bootlegging undermines the purpose of the tax increase, which is to get people to quit," said Dr. Donna Shelley of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, who published a study on the phenomenon. "They're on the streets, in the subways, in the hospital, so even if you were thinking about quitting, they serve as a trigger to smoke," said Shelley, who published her findings in the American Journal of Public Health. One recent day, hustlers on 125th St. and Lenox Ave. tried to hook passersby with shouts of "Newports!" and "Loosies!" Packs were selling for $4 to $5, and single cigarettes were going for 50 cents. In some parts of Manhattan, one pack at a retail outlet can cost $9 after the $1.50 city tax and $1.50 state tax are tacked on. A bootlegger named Stoney said he makes $200 to $300 each afternoon selling the contraband to sometimes-reluctant buyers. "They always say, 'I'm trying to quit. I only want three cigarettes,'" he said. "By the time they get up the block, the cigarettes are gone and they want a pack." Bootleggers also troll Fordham Road in the Bronx and parts of East New York and Bushwick in Brooklyn, said Richard Lipsky, a spokesman for the Neighborhood Retail Alliance. Harlem student John Boulos, 23, buys the cheap butts "whenever they catch me." Though he has tried to quit smoking "many times" in the past five years, Boulos doesn't blame the bootleggers. "It's more stress than people selling cigarettes," he said. City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said the 2002 Continue Reading