Knowing Smoking Has Hurt Your Lungs Helps You Quit
June 26, 2003, By Alison McCook
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Telling long-time smokers they have puffed their way into lung disease helps provide many with enough motivation to kick the habit for good, new research suggests.
Researchers based in Poland found that people who were told their breathing had become moderately to severely limited by long-term smoking were more likely to quit during the following year than people who were told their lungs were only mildly affected, or not at all, by their habit.
Dr. Dorota Gorecka, of the Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases in Warsaw, and her colleagues obtained their findings by measuring lung function -- using a test called spirometry -- in 659 middle-aged smokers wanting to quit. All participants also received advice on how to stop smoking.
The researchers then surveyed participants one year later to determine whether, in the interim, they had managed to kick the habit for good.
The spirometric screening revealed that around half of smokers had breathing problems associated with smoking -- a sign they had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of diseases that includes emphysema.
Among those diagnosed with reduced lung function, 60 percent had moderate-to-severe breathing problems.
COPD is marked by progressively worsening shortness of breath and coughing. It is currently the fourth-leading cause of death in the world, after heart disease, cancer and stroke.
More than 80 percent of cases of COPD are the result of smoking, and research suggests that people who stop smoking early in the course of the disease can prevent further decline in lung function.
One year later, all participants said they had tried to quit, but those who proved most successful were people who showed the worst lung function during the initial screening, the authors report in the journal Chest.
Specifically, almost 17 percent of people with moderate-to-severe breathing problems diagnosed one year previously managed to quit, relative to only six percent of people with mild problems and eight percent of participants with normal lung function.
"I believe that spirometry enhances the motivation of smokers to quit," Gorecka told Reuters Health.
Success in quitting was also seen more often among older smokers, people who started the habit relatively late in life and those who lit up relatively infrequently.
These findings add further evidence to support the idea that all long-term smokers should be screened for COPD, Gorecka added.
"Spirometry is the only way to diagnose COPD, so it should be offered to every middle-aged smoker," she said.
SOURCE: Chest 2003;123:1916-1923.