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The Great American Quit Smoking Sham

November 18, 2013   John R. Polito

Nicorette gum, the Great American Quit Smoking Sham
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The American Cancer Society (ACS), founder of Thursday's Great American Smokeout, continues to struggle with truth when telling smokers how most successful ex-smokers succeed. It does so while continuing to accept large financial contributions from companies selling approved quitting products.

A July 2013 Gallup Poll found that most successful ex-smokers quit smoking cold turkey. It also found that after 40 years (since 1984) of approved quitting products, and billions spent marketing them, that only a tiny fraction of ex-smokers succeeded by using them, just 8 percent.

As I ask in a November 2013 British Medical Journal letter, "How much closer to consumer fraud can approved products get?"

Yesterday, the ACS's website put up a new page entitled “What really works ...” That page was then linked to its primary Great American Smokeout page as an "Expert Voices" link.

There, the ACS discourages cold turkey quitting. It tells smokers that approved products are "effective" and that the nicotine gum, patch, lozenge (NRT) and Chantix "can double a smoker's odds of quitting."

The new ACS page fails to mention the July Gallup Poll finding that only 1 in 100 successful quitters credit nicotine gum for their success.

Ask yourself, why, 3 days prior to the Great American Smokeout, would the American Cancer Society put up a webpage recommending a quitting method that makes quitting nearly impossible?

Frankly, yesterday's new ACS page is actually an improvement. According to the ACS's "success rates" page, "Only about 4% to 7% of people are able to quit smoking on any given attempt without medicines or other help." "Studies in medical journals have reported that about 25% of smokers who use medicines can stay smoke-free for over 6 months."

Is it fair to suggest that the ACS is suggesting that Nicorette, Nicoderm and Chantix are 3.5 to 6.2 times more effective than cold turkey? If so, it simply isn't true. There are no such findings.

In fact, the ACS's 25% rate is roughly 3.5 times higher than found by paid GlaxoSmithKline consultants, who combined and averaged all over-the-counter (OTC) nicotine patch and gum studies and found a six-month rate of just 7% (Hughes, Tobacco Control 2003). That's right, a 93% OTC NRT failure rate.

More importantly, as the Cancer Society knows, nearly every real-world population quitting method study to date has found that those quitting without using approved products have achieved higher success rates than those using them.

For example, cold turkey roughly doubled nicotine gum, patch, lozenge and Zyban rates in a study which examined the smoking patients of 1,000 family practice physicians (Doran 2006). There, cold turkey accounted for a whopping 88 percent of all success stories.

Also, a study published in the Annual Review of Public Health (Pierce 2012) found that whether a heavy smoker or light smoker, that unassisted quitters did substantially better than NRT or prescription medication users.

The American Cancer Society's advocacy and protection of highly ineffective quitting products, while accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from their makers, GlaxoSmith Kline and Pfizer, paints the ACS as caring more about donations than lives.

How many smokers trusted and believed in indefensible American Cancer Society quitting method assertions? As asked in the British Medical Journal in 2012, how many trusting nicotine addicts toyed with pharma grade nicotine until too late?

The question that needs answering is, is the American Cancer Society, and its Great American Smokeout, doing more harm than good?

I, John R. Polito, am solely responsible for the content of this article. Any error brought to my attention will be immediately corrected.

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Written 11/18/13.
Reformatted 08/25/18 by John R. Polito