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World No Smoking Day: the fear of quitting is unfounded

(Vienna, 27-05-2015) A lot of heavily nicotine-dependent smokers want to quit but are reluctant to try, because they are afraid that their cravings will be unbearable afterwards. "Most of them cannot imagine that they will feel better after quitting, even though smoking is making them really ill," says Rudolf Schoberberger of the Institute of Social Medicine at MedUni Vienna on the occasion of World No Smoking Day this coming Sunday (31 May). A current study conducted with participants of the three-week inpatient smoking cessation therapy, which is being scientifically supported by MedUni Vienna, shows that this fear of quitting is totally unfounded.

According to recent studies, nearly a quarter of all smokers in Austria want to cut down on their tobacco consumption and one third want to quit altogether. 37% have already tried to quit. A big stumbling block is the fear that the withdrawal symptoms will be unbearable. "The greater their nicotine dependence, the greater the fear," says the MedUni Vienna expert. This fear is unfounded, according to a study that has now been published in the magazine "Public Health".

Success rate: 42 %
Some Austrian health insurers pay for their policy-holders to take part in an inpatient smoking cessation therapy. Every year, up to 100 heavily nicotine-dependent Austrians avail themselves of this opportunity. During the three weeks, which are organized like a stay at a health resort, participants receive individual and group care, are given nutritional advice and also an 80-page manual addressing many questions about smoking and quitting. Schoberberger: "It is also important that the smokers are taken out of the normal daily routines for three weeks. That makes quitting much easier."

The social medicine experts at MedUni Vienna have now increased the success rate of inpatient smoking cessation therapy. The principal outcome: "The long-term health of those who have successfully quit smoking is much improved. Out of 270 participants questioned, more than 42% said that one year after the inpatient smoking cessation therapy they were healthier and felt better in general and that they were still not smoking." 30% started to smoke again after the therapy and the rest did not turn up for their follow-up appointments. "Our survey showed a significant increase in satisfaction with sleep quality, and also with breathing and mobility," says Schoberberger to sum up. Medication use had also fallen significantly in this group.

The results can be backed up by figures: before the therapy, 23.2% of the current non-smokers said that they frequently had cardiovascular problems but after only six months this percentage fell to 5.8%. At the start of the therapy, 31.4% described their general well-being as frequently impaired, whereas afterwards this figure was only 7.5%. There is also a significant improvement in terms of sleep quality: before the therapy, every second person amongst the current non-smokers was dissatisfied with their sleep quality and feared that it would have a negative impact upon their health; now this figure is only 22.4%.

Schoberberger: "Doing without tobacco results in a significant improvement in health and greater lifestyle appreciation. At the same time, for most of those who have been weaned off smoking, cravings cease to be an issue after only six months. The fear of quitting is totally unfounded."

Service: Public Health
„Heavy dependent nicotine smokers – Newfound lifestyle appreciation after quitting successfully. Experiences from inpatient smoking cessation therapy.“ R. Schoberberger, G. Böhm, Y. Schroeder. Public Health. 2015 Mar 12. pii: S0033-3506(15)00060-8. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2015.02.011.