October 29, 2013
News Review From Harvard Medical School -- Monday's No. 1 for Quit-Smoking Searches
People are most likely to think about quitting smoking on Mondays, a new study suggests. Researchers looked at Google searches between 2008 and 2012. They looked at searches done in English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Russian. They found that people searched for information about quitting smoking more often early in the week. The peak occurred on Mondays for 4 of the languages. Mondays lagged a bit behind Sundays for Chinese and Russian searches. For all 6 languages combined, Monday searches totaled 25% higher than those for the average day during the rest of the week. Searches declined steadily after Monday before rising again on Sundays. Researchers said they aren't sure what the pattern means. But they said it might be helpful in figuring out the best days to target quit-smoking messages. The journal JAMA Internal Medicine published the study as a research letter. HealthDay News wrote about it October 28.
By Howard LeWine, M.D.
Harvard Medical School
What Is the Doctor's Reaction?
The U.S. surgeon general first warned of smoking's dangers in 1964. Since then, fewer and fewer people are lighting up. Still, roughly 44 million Americans, or about 1 in 5 adults, are smokers.
Most smokers start when they are teenagers. By adulthood, three-quarters want to quit. Each year, nearly half of smokers try to kick the habit. But stress, socializing and the addictive property of nicotine often get in the way. The average person makes 8 to 10 quit attempts before stopping for good.
Stopping smoking is the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives. If you smoke or use smokeless tobacco, the very best thing you can do for your health and the health of those around you is to quit.
You will be more successful if you plan properly. One model commonly used to help people break addictions is called "stages of change." According to this model, behavior change rarely occurs at one particular moment in time. Instead, you are more likely to journey through several distinct stages before attaining your goal.
- Pre-contemplation -- In this phase, you aren't thinking of changing now or in the future. You might know that smoking can cause health problems. But you don't really believe smoking is a problem for you.
- Contemplation -- You recognize that quitting is probably right thing to do. But you still are uncertain you want or need to quit.
- Preparation -- You've accepted the idea of quitting and start looking for ways to accomplish it.
- Action -- You take one or more definitive steps. You set a quit date and perhaps sign up for a stop-smoking group. An example would be joining a smoking cessation support group. And you do quit smoking.
- Maintenance -- You are tempted to return to smoking. This is true for any type of behavior change. Understand that this is expected. Therefore, you need to develop strategies ahead of time to address it, even if you smoke one or two cigarettes.
Who would have thought that people might think about or prepare to quit smoking on any particular day of the week? But it appears to be so. This study found that people did more Internet searches for the topic on Mondays. During the week, the number of searchers decreased, with a rise again on Sunday before the Monday peak.
What Changes Can I Make Now?
We don't know if doing your initial preparation phase on a Monday leads to higher quit rates. For now, any day of the week is a good day to get information about how to quit smoking.
Most people need help to quit smoking for good. Take advantage of stop-smoking programs. You can usually find free ones. Accept support from your family and friends.
Nicotine replacement therapy can help you get through the cravings. You have several choices. You can buy patches, gums, nasal sprays, inhalers and lozenges. Using nicotine replacement therapy doubles your chances of quitting successfully.
Get help from your doctor. Medicines also can help you quit for good. The two that work the best are:
- Bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin and generic versions)
- Varenicline (Chantix)
What Can I Expect Looking to the Future?
Often people choose a special day, such as a birthday or holiday, for their quit date. For those who are still in the contemplation or preparation stage, consider choosing a specific Monday to make that search for materials on how to quit smoking.