World No Tobacco Day helps people consider quitting, research says


Today is the 25th anniversary of World No Tobacco Day, one of many days set aside to focus awareness on an issue or a cause. But this one is more than just a publicity ploy, researchers say.

Researchers from the Informatics Program at Children’s Hospital Boston and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health monitored news promoting the stopping of smoking in seven Latin American countries. They also looked at Internet queries for cessation, and found they increased as much as 84% on that day, compared with other days.

Douglas Bettcher, director of the Tobacco Free Initiative of the World Health Organization, says that almost 6 million people die from tobacco each year. And a majority of those people live in low- and middle-income countries, says Joanna Cohen, who leads the Bloomberg School’s Institute for Global Tobacco Control.


The study shows that the World No Tobacco Day promotes awareness and interest in quitting, Cohen says. In a statement, she called the day an “effective reminder and inspiration.”

Their findings appear in the May/June issue of Journal of Medical Internet Research.

But more than desire plays a role, according to research published this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry that shows genetics can play a role in whether someone can quit on their own or needs medication to help.

The study adds to the knowledge about genetic vulnerability to nicotine dependence, and can provide information useful to creating quitting programs, says Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, which is part of the federal National Institutes of Health.

The researchers focused on specific variations in a cluster of nicotinic receptor genes, and found that people with the high-risk form of that cluster took two more years to quit on average than those with the low-risk genes. They found that medications for quitting increased the likelihood of quitting in the higher-risk group.

“We found that the effects of smoking cessation medications depend on a person’s genes,” Dr. Li-Shiun Chen of the Washington University School of Medicine said in a statement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says smoking or exposure to others’ smoking leads to 440,000 preventable deaths a year. More than 46 million U.S. adults smoke, the agency says.


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