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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 July, 2003, 23:17 GMT 00:17 UK
Daily battle of quitting smoking
One in four Britons smokes
Experts have found more evidence to suggest that staying off cigarettes is a daily battle for some people.

A study by British researchers has found that even people who manage to kick the habit for over a year still run a high risk of taking up smoking again.

Researchers at the University of Oxford carried out a follow-up study of 1,625 people who had taken part in a trial to test the effectiveness of nicotine patches in 1992.

In the original study, the patients had been divided into two groups. Those in the first group were given a nicotine patch while those in the second patch received a dummy patch.

Kicking the habit

Almost one in 10 managed to give up cigarettes for one year during the trial, with smokers on nicotine patches proving much more successful.

The researchers decided to track down these patients again in 2000 to see if they were still managing to stay off cigarettes.

If you can keep off tobacco for a year your chances of quitting are better than even
Jean King, Cancer Research UK

They tracked down 840 patients, almost evenly divided between those who had received nicotine patches and those who had received the dummy patches.

They found that of those who had managed to quit smoking for one year during the trial, three out of four were still off cigarettes.

Those who had been prescribed nicotine patches were slightly more likely to be smoking again.

The researchers then decided to do their calculations again. This time they included those patients they did not manage to track down.

They decided to assume that these patients were all smoking again.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said: "Our estimates were based on the conservative but well accepted assumption that those lost to follow up were still smoking."

Their new calculations suggested that 40% of those who managed to quit for one year during the original trial were now smoking.

The researchers said that the figures suggested that overall just one in eight of those involved in the original trial had managed to quit smoking.

They said the findings highlighted the need for better help for people who want to give up smoking.

"Finding more effective ways to help people to give up smoking remains an ongoing challenge," they said.

Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, backed that view.

"Nicotine is an incredibly addictive substance and this trial demonstrates just how difficult it is to give up," she said.

"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."

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10 May 03  |  Health

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