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According to recent studies, the only thing cooling about menthol cigarettes may be the name at most.  The “menthol flavor” may make them even more addictive and deadlier to smokers.

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“We previously found that menthol cigarette smokers take in more nicotine and carbon monoxide per cigarette. This study shows that menthol smokers also find it harder to quit, despite smoking fewer cigarettes per day,” study author Kunal Gandhi, a researcher in the division of addiction psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New JerseyRobert Wood Johnson Medical School, said in a news release issued by the school.

In the study, which examined almost 1,700 people attending a university-run tobacco addiction clinic, blacks and Latinos who smoked menthol cigarettes had a notably harder time quitting than those smoking non-menthols. Blacks who smoked menthols, for example, had half the success in quitting as blacks using non-menthol cigarettes.

“These results build on growing evidence suggesting that menthol is not a neutral flavoring in cigarettes. It masks the harshness of the nicotine and toxins, affects the way the cigarette is smoked, and makes it more deadly and addictive,”  said Jonathan Foulds, director of the university’s Tobacco Dependence Program.

 

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Brain scans of smokers taken before and 24 hours after quitting showed increased activity in certain areas of the brain that cue the person to crave a drag when they view photographs of others smoking, according to research published online Jan. 5 in Psychopharmacology.

“We saw activation in the dorsal striatum, an area involved in learning habits or things we do by rote, like riding a bike or brushing our teeth. Our research shows us that when smokers encounter these cues after quitting, it activates the area of the brain responsible for automatic responses. That means quitting smoking may not be a matter of conscious control,” researcher Joseph McClernon, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center, said in a news release issued by the school.

“So, if we’re really going to help people quit, this emphasizes the need to do more than tell people to resist temptation. We also have to help them break that habitual response,” he added.

“Only five percent of unaided quit attempts result in successful abstinence,” McClernon said. “Most smokers who try to quit return to smoking again. We are trying to understand how that process works in the brain, and this research brings us one step closer.”

Study co-author Jed Rose, director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research, said previous research he conducted showed that wearing a nicotine patch and smoking a cigarette with no nicotine breaks the learned behavior.

“The smoking behavior is not reinforced, because the act of smoking is not leading them to get the nicotine,” Rose said in the news release. “Doing this before people actually quit helps them break the habit so they start smoking less. We’re seeing people quit longer this way.”

 

About 46 million American adults smoke cigarettes, but most smokers are either actively trying to quit or want to quit. Since 1965, more than 49 percent of all adults who have ever smoked have quit.

According to the 2004 Surgeon General’s Report, The Health Consequences of Smoking, eliminating smoking can greatly reduce the occurrence of coronary heart disease and other forms of cardiovascular disease. Smoking cessation is important in the medical management of many contributors to heart attack. These include atherosclerosis (fatty buildups in arteries), thrombosis (blood clots), coronary artery spasm and cardiac arrhythmia (heart rhythm problems). Quitting smoking also can help manage several other disorders, especially arteriosclerotic peripheral vascular disease (fatty buildups in peripheral arteries) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

According to the 2004 Surgeon General’s Report, tobacco smoking remains the No. 1 cause of preventable disease and death in the United States.

About 23 percent of adult men and 19 percent of adult women smoke. This figure is down considerably from 42 percent in 1965. Changes in smoking habits during the late 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s have very likely contributed to the drop in cardiovascular deaths that occurred at the same time in the United States.

Why Quit?:

  • After one year off cigarettes, the excess risk of coronary heart disease caused by smoking is reduced by half. After 15 years of abstinence, the risk is similar to that for people who’ve never smoked.
  • In 5 to 15 years, the risk of stroke for ex-smokers returns to the level of those who’ve never smoked.
  • Male smokers who quit between ages 35 to 39 add an average of 5 years to their lives. Female quitters in this age group add 3 years. Men and women who quit at ages 65 to 69 increase their life expectancy by 1 year.

More than four in five smokers say they want to quit. And each year about 1.3 million smokers do quit. 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.  Smoking cessation programs seem especially helpful for people who smoke more than 25 cigarettes a day.

As if you need to add to the long list of reasons to quit smoking for good, new research from  the journal of Neurology suggests a family history of stroke makes smokers six times more likely to also suffer a stroke. The specific type of aneurysm, called a subarachnoid hemorrhage, is fatal in approximately 35 to 40 percent of cases, and that’s not cool.

 Smoking Cessation

Video: Smoking Cessation

Sounds plenty unappealing, but a nicotine addiction can be as enslaving as heroin. Recent reporting by U.S. News found that going cold turkey—while the most common approach wannabe quitters attempt—is almost always doomed to fail. Smokers who successfully quit tend to recruit multiple resources—and sometimes more than one resource at a time—experts say. From support groups to online smoking cessation help to prescription medications and hypnotism, drawing on a range of options to become a former smoker seems to your best bet.

Occasional smokers are not free of potential damage. A lighter habit—even one that burns through less than a pack a week—can inflict early cardiovascular disease on otherwise healthy young adults.

So, in 2009, we only wish you the best of luck and the happiest of new year’s when you finally end up quitting the nastiest of habits!

Barack Obama failed to give a straight answer when asked on a Meet The Press yesterday whether he had managed to quit smoking.

The United States, where cigarettes are responsible for one in five deaths and smoking costs tens of billions of dollars in health care, The President elect has been under pressure to set an example by giving up his reported two-decade-old habit. Hard to believe that he is able to play basketball as well.

Interviewer Tom Brokaw told Mr Obama he was ducking answering the question.

Noting that the White House was a no-smoking zone, Brokaw asked Mr Obama, “Have you stopped smoking?”

“I have,” Mr Obama replied, smiling broadly. “What I said was that there are times where I have fallen off the wagon.”

“Wait a minute,” Brokaw interjected, “that means you haven’t stopped.”

“Fair enough,” Mr Obama said. “What I would say is that I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier. You will not see any violations of these rules in the White House.”

Mr Obama was often observed on the presidential campaign trail chewing Nicorette gum, which helps ease the craving for nicotine. He has tried several times to quit.

The 47-year-old president-elect, who takes office on January 20, works out daily at the gym and sometimes plays basketball. His doctor said in May he was in excellent health, often jogged three miles a day and was fit to serve as US president.

 

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