Additional help for quitting smoking

January 09, 1998|By Carolyn Poirot | Carolyn Poirot,FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM

Three-fourths of smokers want to quit, but less than 10 percent who try each year succeed long-term, according to health researchers. Smokers who resolve to kick their deadly habit in 1998 should find it a little easier, though.

A new smokeless nicotine inhaler that resembles a fat plastic cigarette, and the first non-nicotine anti-smoking drug were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997. They join a number of other products and social support systems to aid in stubbing out that tobacco habit:

Smokeless nicotine inhaler: The smokeless nicotine inhaler has just become available by prescription in the Baltimore-Washington area. The Nicotrol Inhaler, approved by the FDA in May, is being touted as the first form of nicotine replacement therapy that helps hard-core smokers who are addicted to nicotine but also miss the "feel" of puffing on a cigarette when trying to quit.

The plastic inhaler allows users to suck in a little nicotine, without the smoke that contains dangerous tars and toxins. The inhalers even cause a little burning sensation at the back of the throat for smokers who are really into the feel of smoking.

Nicotrol Inhaler costs about $45 for a one-to-two-week supply.

Zyban: More support is available in the form of a new prescription anti-depressant designed to curb the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult for many people to quit smoking.

Zyban is a slow-release form of Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant that works on two brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine. It is especially helpful for nicotine-dependent people who feel irritable, anxious, moody and on edge when they are trying to quit.

Scientists hunting for smoking cures stumbled onto the fact that patients under treatment for depression frequently quit smoking while taking Wellbutrin, one of the newer anti-depressants approved several years ago. Studies show the drug is especially helpful when used in conjunction with nicotine replacement patches, gum or nasal spray.

Long-term follow-up rates are not available on Zyban.

HTC Nicotine patches and nicotine gum: In late '96, nicotine-replacement patches and gum went over the counter, making them easy to buy. Some 20 percent to 25 percent of nicotine gum and patch users quit smoking for at least one year, with the new inhaler expected to improve that rate.

Nicotine nasal spray: A nicotine nasal spray became available, by prescription only, in 1996.

Nicotine in the nasal spray hits the bloodstream faster than that in the gum or patch, offering the potential of almost immediate relief from cigarette cravings.

A squirt up each nostril gives the smoker 1 milligram of nicotine. ++ Smokers aren't supposed to inhale it more than five times a day. Overdosing is dangerous -- 40 milligrams is considered a lethal ,, dose of nicotine.

Computerized behavior modification: LifeSign, a new hand-held mini-computer designed to help people change their smoking behavior, has been developed under funding from the National Cancer Institute and is now available by mail for $89.95. For seven days, the smoker presses a button each time he or she lights up. The computer then analyzes the information and begins beeping the smoker to tell him or her when to light up during the next 14 to 28 days.

"It has you smoking at different times than you are used to, and gradually phases you out altogether," explains Kyle Horgan, a marketing agent for Personal Improvement Computer Systems (PICS), the company that developed the system. The success rate, short term, has been as high as 80 percent, Horgan says. For more information, call PICS at (800) 543-3744.

Doctor's orders: Researchers reviewing 188 studies of attempted smoking cessation concluded that simple, direct advice to quit smoking is a cost-effective way for doctors to help cure their patients -- especially pregnant women and people with heart disease.

Support groups: Quit-smoking clinics are widely available with long-term support groups through the American Cancer Society.

Pub Date: 1/09/98

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