Do you plan on quitting smoking this week? On October 14, ABC News announced that it is seeking smokers who want to stop and plan to quit in the next week or so. "If you would like to share your story on camera with ABC News, please fill out the form below," its website suggests.
It appears that a major television network is at last about to devote news resources and air time toward confronting America's leading cause of preventable death - chemical dependency upon smoking nicotine. Two months following the August loss of "World News Tonight" anchor Peter Jennings to lung cancer, it seems only fitting that ABC News champion a cause that rarely receives meaningful attention.
ABC News seems focused on a key issue. If an estimated 45.8 million Americans smoke cigarettes, and over 70 percent of all smokers say they want to stop, then why don't they? It's an excellent question.
"What I feel is the most crucial piece of information to hit home with people is that in America we now have more former smokers alive today than current smokers, meaning over half of the people who used to smoke have now successfully quit smoking," says Joel Spitzer. "No one should still be thinking that quitting smoking is impossible."
Over three decades of Chicago area clinic experience and more than a hundred free online quitting articles, Joel Spitzer is likely the Internet's most widely read quit smoking educator, facilitator and counselor. The online director of Freedom from Tobacco, a free education oriented cold turkey quit smoking peer support forum, Spitzer also presents seminars and clinics for both the Evanston and Skokie Illinois Departments of Health.
"The problem is that most people who go for professional help to quit smoking or who look for self-help information on how to quit smoking are steered toward pharmaceutical interventions. In the real world, results using pharmaceutical interventions are dismal," says Spitzer.
"The vast majority of people who have successfully quit smoking have done so without pharmaceutical interventions and have done so by going cold turkey--often against professional advice."
"We have tried to provide material and information that can help people realize that they can quit smoking, and that quitting can be done in a manner that should cost the person nothing," says Spitzer. "People should start 'saving' everything the day they stop smoking -- saving their money, their health and likely saving their lives."
Joel Spitzer's free 149 page quitting book is titled "Never Take Another Puff" and can be downloaded in PDF format at WhyQuit.com. Visitors can also read an online version in HTML format. It is a collection of 95 insightful quitting articles on almost every cessation topic imaginable.
"I hope ABC News looks deeper and behind the hundreds of millions in marketing spent by those pushing replacement nicotine, as for two decades they've intentionally assaulted and bashed cold turkey quitter confidence," says John Polito. "It's time for the media to realize that nicotine produces an alert dopamine/adrenaline intoxication and that the pharmaceutical industry has long known that its so called 'double blind' studies were not blind."
"National cessation rates have all but ground to a halt and we're convinced that toying with pharmaceutical grade nicotine is a primary cause." Polito is founder and editor of WhyQuit.com, the Internet's leading forum devoted to the art, science and psychology of cold turkey quitting.
"We now have seven over-the-counter nicotine patch and gum studies -- the way its used by almost all NRT quitters today," says Polito. "We've yet to see any major media organization tell quitters the actual percentage of study participants who succeeded in quitting smoking for six months. Why?"
A March 2003 study by GlaxoSmithKline consultants combined and averaged the seven over-the-counter nicotine patch and gum studies and found that only 1 in 14 users were still not smoking at six months - a 93% smoking relapse rate.
"A failed cold turkey attempt carries potential to teach a critical lesson about the power of one puff of nicotine to destroy hard work and glory. We call it the 'Law of Addiction' and if obeyed it guarantees success to all. What school-of-hard-quitting-knocks lesson is learned with repeat nicotine gum or patch use," asks Polito?"
Only two studies have focused on success rates for second time patch users. In one study 0% of second time users succeeded (Tonnesen, Addiction, April 1993), while in the other just 1.6% were still not smoking at six months (Gourlay, British Medical Journal, August 1995 - see table III).
What concerns Polito is, unlike cold turkey quitting, if the odds of success actually decline with each subsequent nicotine gum or patch attempt then why is no warning being given and how many lives are being lost?
One might think that if 90% of all successful quitters quit cold turkey that 90% of quitting resources would be devoted to sharing their secrets, practices and insights. "It doesn't work that way," says Polito.
"Unless willing to hold hostage and charge for cold turkey knowledge, skills development and support there is no money to be made in cold turkey quitting. It almost has to be a labor of love." WhyQuit is not only free, it sells no products, receives no public or private funding, is commercial free, and goes to the extreme of declining all quitter donation offers.
Will ABC News quitting coverage support and help educate cold turkey quitters in their quest for freedom, or instead attempt to convince them that the more than 40 million ex-smoking Americans who already quit cold turkey did it the wrong way or the hard way?
No need to worry. Peter Jennings had a passion for this topic and an endless zeal for getting the story right. Although his dependency took him from us far too early, his lessons, students and ideals live on.