CIGARETTES New tax may help smokers kick habit
Experts say quitting requires both medical and social treatment.
By KANTELE FRANKO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- When the tax on a pack of cigarettes increased by 70 cents July 1 because of the new state budget, 30-year-old John Kechler decided he might kick his 20-year smoking habit because he couldn't afford it at the higher prices.
And Kechler wasn't alone.
"There is a proven trend that as you increase the price of cigarettes, more smokers decide to quit," said Wendy Simpkins, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society.
With each 10-percent increase in the price of a pack of cigarettes, consumption decreases by 4 percent, she said.
"We hope that this tax will spur folks to make healthier decisions," she said.
About a quarter of adult Americans, including 22 percent of those in Ohio, are smokers, but 75 percent of all adult smokers want to quit, said Tracy Sabetta, director of Tobacco-Free Ohio.
Research by Tobacco-Free Ohio, a jointly funded program of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association, predicts 78,000 adult smokers will quit as a direct result of the tax.
Though the average smoker tries to quit 11 times during his or her lifetime, those who are most successful have to combine nicotine replacement therapy with counseling or support, Sabetta said.
Dr. Jack Henningfield, a smoking cessation expert and adjunct professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said the "cold turkey" method is least successful because it fails to treat both the nicotine addiction and the behavioral patterns of smokers.
"When you stop nicotine abruptly, it's like falling off a cliff," he said.
Medicinal nicotine -- such as that found in patches, gums and lozenges -- helps the brain to function while weaning the body off nicotine, Henningfield said.
"Smoking cessation products don't necessarily make quitting easy, but it makes it possible," he said.
Treating smokers' behavioral patterns, such as lighting a cigarette when the phone rings, also is necessary, Dr. Henningfield said.
Support groups and so-called "quit lines," phone lines staffed by support specialists, help smokers analyze these patterns and decide which nicotine supplements are best for their habits.
The government also offers information for smokers who are trying to quit at www.smokefree.gov.
Reaping the benefits
Smokers who quit will benefit from their decision in multiple ways because they are not as vulnerable to smoking-related illnesses, especially lung cancer, Simpkins said.
According to the American Cancer Society, 87 percent of lung cancer cases are caused directly by tobacco use.
About 7,000 Ohioans will die in 2005 from lung cancer, including nearly 450 in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties, Simpkins said.