FRIDAY, Feb. 15 (HealthDay News) -- You're sharing a bottle of
wine at a party or sipping a margarita at the bar when you feel a
strong urge for a cigarette -- even though you've quit smoking.
Unfortunately, willpower is all too weak in these situations,
new research suggests.
Women trying to stop smoking may at greater risk for relapse if
they drink alcohol, according to the study from the University of
Texas School of Public Health. Researchers found that women who
drink to cope with the stress of trying to kick the habit may
actually trigger more intense urges to smoke.
Awareness of this effect may spur strategies to help drinkers
tempted to return to tobacco.
"Identification of situations that increase the risk for relapse will aid in the development of novel interventions that can address these situations in the moment of occurrence," Michael Businelle, an assistant professor and study co-author, said in a UT news release.
The researchers tracked the smoking urges of 302 Seattle women
aged 18 to 70 who were in the process of giving up smoking. The
study, which was conducted from 1999 to 2002, focused on women
because they have more difficulty quitting.
The women used hand-held computers to record their urges to
smoke throughout the day. Participants also completed an assessment
of each smoking urge they experienced. On days when the women drank
alcohol, their smoking urges were different.
"Interestingly, these higher, more volatile smoking urges were reported before the individual actually began drinking, suggesting that alcohol consumption may have been in response to smoking urges rather than vice versa," Businelle noted.
Women also were more likely to drink alcohol if they woke up
with a strong urge to smoke. This suggests that women trying to
stop smoking may turn to alcohol to ease the stress of trying to
quit, the researcher say. However, since drinking actually triggers
more intense urges to smoke, it could increase women's risk of
relapse, study authors concluded.
"On any given quit attempt, five out of 100 people are successful at quitting 'cold turkey,' 32 percent of those who take varenicline [Chantix] successfully quit, 25 percent of those who use patches and/or gum successfully quit, while those who combine counseling with medications have the best quit rates, greater than 30 percent," Businelle said.
People trying to quit smoking should seek help from their
doctor, he added. He also offered the following tips for those who
want to stop smoking for good:
- Track and record cigarette smoking and urges by time of day and
- Discard all lighters, cigarettes and ashtrays.
- Be more active or start a regular exercise routine.
- Inform friends and family of plans to quit smoking so they can
provide support and social pressure to help you stick to that
Smoking-related illnesses are the leading cause of preventable
deaths in the United States, claiming more than 1,200 lives daily,
the release noted.
The research was funded with grants from the U.S. National
Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.
The American Cancer Society offers more suggestions on