Which smoking cessation strategy works best? There is no single answer, according the researchers. The effectiveness of a strategy depends on the smoker’s genetic make up and his or her smoking habits. This is probably the reason why kicking the habit is so difficult. Recent estimates show that 46 million people in the US are smokers and although 70% of these are trying or have tried to quit, their smoking cessation strategy just didn’t work.
But it is not as hopeless as you might think. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) report that by combining the information on a smoker’s genetics and smoking habits, a personalized approach to smoking cessation can be developed. And they predict that this strategy is just 3 to 5 years away.
According to Dr. Jed Rose, director of Duke’s Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research:
“Within three to five years, it’s conceivable we’ll have a practical test that could take the guesswork out of choosing a smoking-cessation therapy. It could be used by clinicians to guide the selection of treatment and appropriate dose for each smoker, and hopefully increase cessation success rates.”
Genomic studies scanned more than 520,000 genetic markers and identified a few which seem to be responsible for individual response to specific smoking cessation treatments. Researchers are looking into combining the information of individual genetic markers into a single “quit success score”, which, together with info on smoking habits and degree of nicotine dependence, can predict the likelihood of successfully quitting and the dose of nicotine patch necessary.
The study looked at 479 cigarette smokers who want to quit. The participants underwent genetic testing and answered questionnaire about their smoking habits. Two doses of nicotine patches, the standard 21 mg and the double strength 42 mg were tested and compared. Results showed that smokers with low quit success score based on genetics and high nicotine dependence can have better success with the high dose nicotine patch whereas those with better scores and less dependence would only require the standard patch.
Other cessation therapies using verenicline or bupropion hydrochloride are also being investigated. Rose continues to explain:
“Right now there is no treatment algorithm that tells a clinician or smoker which treatment is likely to work for them. That’s what we are trying to do. We want to tailor and give informative guidance to clinicians in terms of what should be tried first to maximize smoking cessation success.”