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Study highlights long road to giving up

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by Cancer Research UK | News

3 July 2003

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Smokers who manage to give up for a year have a better than even chance of quitting long-term, according to a trial by Cancer Research UK scientists.

But the study, published in the British Medical Journal1, also highlights the difficulty of long-term quitting, with only five per cent of smokers managing to stay away from cigarettes for the full eight years of the trial.

The study demonstrates the urgent need for more effective ways of helping people to quit, Cancer Research UK believes.

Scientists at the Cancer Research UK General Practice Research Group in Oxford followed up 840 people who had taken part in an original one-year trial on the effectiveness of NRT.

Of the 153 patients who had given up smoking for one year in the original trial, 83 (54 per cent) were still tobacco-free eight years later.

NRT increased the odds of quitting for a year by 45 per cent and for eight years by 39 per cent, although only the first figure was statistically significant.

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s Director of Tobacco Control, says: “Nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance and this trial demonstrates just how difficult it is to give up.

“Smokers who want to quit should seek as much help as they can, both from NRT and from behavioural support, such as stop-smoking clinics, which can further increase the chances of giving up. And policies such as smoke-free public places are essential to create a non-smoking norm2.”

“Smokers should certainly not get discouraged from trying to quit. Giving up has enormous benefits for health, and as the study shows, if you can keep off tobacco for a year your chances of quitting are better than even.”



  1. British Medical Journal327 pp.28-29
  2. For more information, see the CMO report 2002