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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, January 7, 2006

Stick with vow to quit smoking, expert says

Advertiser News Services

More than 30 million Americans who smoke would like to quit and many will make a New Year's resolution to do just that.

The editor of Lung Cancer Update newsletter, a monthly publication that deals with smoking and lung cancer issues, urges all smokers to follow through on their resolutions, and offers some suggestions on how to quit successfully.

According to Noel Griese, editor of the newsletter, and a past Georgia director of the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association:

  • An estimated 90 million Americans are smokers or have been in the past.

  • Of the 90 million, about 44 million continue to smoke.

  • Of the 44 million who continue to smoke, 70 percent (31 million) want to quit but find it difficult to do so.

  • On average, smoking shortens the lives of American males by 13.2 years and females by 14.5 years.

  • According to American Cancer Society estimates, about 172,500 Americans were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. An estimated 163,500 million Americans died of lung cancer in 2005. Perhaps the best-known was news anchor Peter Jennings.

  • Most lung cancers about seven out of every eight are the result of smoking. However, about one out of eight lung cancers occurs in people like Dana Reeve who never smoked.

  • At greatest risk are smokers such as Jennings who are older than 65 and have at least a 30 pack-year history of smoking. (Smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for one year constitutes a pack-year.)

  • On a positive note, smoking by youths, which had been growing in the 1990s, has been declining since 1997. Youths are starting to smoke at later ages. The percentage of high schoolers who smoke cigarettes has fallen from 30.5 percent in 1997 to 21.9 percent in 2003.

  • Early detection of lung cancer is the key to survival. About 55,000 of the 172,500 diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 were early-stage patients. Of those who are diagnosed with lung cancer before the disease has spread from the lung to the rest of the chest cavity, 49 percent can be treated and will survive for five or more years. Of those who are diagnosed after the disease has spread to the rest of the chest cavity, but not to other organs, 16 percent will survive for five or more years. Of those diagnosed after the disease has spread to other organs, only 2 percent will live for five or more years.

    Griese, the author of four books on cancer, said that smokers should not be discouraged if they fail to quit on the first try.

    "Only one in 20 smokers is successful at quitting cold-turkey on the first attempt," he said. "Smokers who want to quit can greatly improve those odds if they do two things. The first is to participate in a support group such as those offered by the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association or state-sponsored quit-line telephone services. The other is to use a nicotine replacement until the addiction is conquered. These fall into two categories. One is made up of gums, patches, sprays and other products containing nicotine. The other is a class of 'feel-good' drugs like Welbutrin (bupropion)."