There is a widespread feeling that the government could and should do more toward reversing the obesity epidemic. So, we have been looking at the advantages and the downsides of adapting control mechanisms that have been applied to alcohol and tobacco products. Looking back over a series of posts, this “Smoking-Related Roundup” sums up the main takeaway, or in many cases the still unresolved questions, from each one.
Many programs depend on willpower, which is not universally available among habituated or addicted individuals. It is difficult to obtain credible success rates from quit-smoking and quit-drinking programs, especially in the long term.
Here is a footnote to that observation. In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control announced that “More than 100,000 Americans quit smoking due to national media campaign.” It was the first time any federal agency had paid for a tobacco education campaign. The content of the celebratory press release about “Tips from Former Smokers” did not quite live up to the headline:
As a result of the 2012 campaign, more than 200,000 Americans had quit smoking immediately following the three-month campaign, of which researchers estimated that more than 100,000 will likely quit smoking permanently.
Without getting obsessive about it, there are two sticking points: First, “permanently” is a long time. This paper was published only five or six years ago. By comparison, one source says:
[R]esearch shows that with good smoking cessation programs, 20 to 40 percent of participants are able to quit smoking and stay off cigarettes for at least one year.
That’s only between one-fifth, and at most, four out of 10 — who had quit for only a single year — which is not anywhere near “permanently.” According to another source, only about 8 percent of quitting attempts are successful, which is less than one out of 10 people who try.
The other problem with the CDC report is the part about how, out of those 200,000 who were inspired to quit by the public relations effort, researchers estimated that more than 100,000 would likely quit smoking permanently. “Estimated” and “will likely” are both weasel words that are meaningless in a scientific report, which is supposed to document what did happen, not what the authors believe or hope might happen.
That’s a different kind of paper. If we could do an accurate followup today with all those 200,000 subjects, how many of them have resumed smoking since then? Probably way more than half.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “More than 100,000 Americans quit smoking due to national media campaign,” CDC.gov, 09/09/13
Source: “Smoking Cessation,” USNews.com
Source: “What you need to know to quit smoking,” TruthInitiative.org, 11/07/18
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