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The research which was published last month in the journal Addiction, NCBI, analyzed data collected via randomized clinical trials which were conducted in several hospitals across the US between 2010 and 2014. The group of hospitals named The Consortium of Hospitals Advancing Research on Tobacco (CHART), carried out federally supported smoking cessation trials. Lead researcher Taneisha Scheuermann and her colleagues, examined the data obtained from these smoking cessation exercises, comparing what the participants reported to what  saliva tests indicated.

The study participants which amounted to 5,827 were spread across the CHART hospitals, hence they were recruited for this study whilst being hospitalized for health conditions which would have given them a higher motivation than usual to quit smoking.

Self reporting vs saliva samples

The study subjects  were given a variety of smoking cessation programs and six months later were given a survey to complete. From the initial 5,827, 4,206 completed the survey, out of which 1,708 reported that they had been abstinent from smoking in the past seven days. Almost 10% of the participants who claimed abstinence, reported using cessation aids such as pharmaceutical nicotine, e-cigarettes or other tobacco harm reduction products, and these were among the 530 excluded from the Scheuermann analysis.

The participants who claimed they had quit smoking, were offered money in exchange for saliva samples, but from 1,708 only 923 participants were willing to have their saliva samples tested.
The participants who claimed they had quit smoking, were offered between $50 and $100 in exchange for saliva samples, but from 1,708 only 923 participants were willing to have their saliva samples tested and out of these, 822 supplied valid samples. Out of these 822 participants, 347, which equates to 42.2%, had traces of cotinine in their saliva, a clear indicator that they had smoked.

At the end of the study, it was calculated that out of the 5,827 participants who had initially been part of the smoking cessation programs, only 475, which equates to 8%, had been abstinent for the trial period. This figure is in line with cessation rates amongst the general population, and once again, one should bear in mind that all the participants who took part in this trial were hospitalized, hence would have been more motivated to quit than your average smoker.

The danger of adopting a forbidding attitude towards smoking

This study brings to the forefront a critical social issue that is proving detrimental to public health. While it is no secret that quitting cigarettes is something smokers struggle substantially with and more often than not, fail at. However, the misreporting recorded by this study, also indicates that many smokers are ashamed of their failure. Hence, adopting a forbidding attitude towards smoking will not aid smokers in any way, on the contrary, it will just push them to hide their addiction, therefore unnecessarily perpetuating their problem.

Read Further : R. Street

Prohibition or Harm Reduction

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