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UR Researchers Launch Project 50+ to Help Older Smokers Quit

Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Need a few more good reasons to quit smoking? Add these to the list: Colds and bronchitis are aggravated by smoking, the New Year and a fresh start are right around the corner, and soon it's going to be too chilly for an outdoor cigarette break.

But knowing that it often takes more than just a strong will to quit, a group of University of Rochester Medical Center researchers have begun a study measuring what interventions help best. Funded by a $900,000 National Cancer Institute grant, the study, called Project 50+, targets people 50 years and older who have seriously tried to quit in the last four years.

"There is often a perception that once you reach a certain age it really doesn't matter if you quit, but that's not true," says Deborah Ossip-Klein, Ph.D., the study's principal investigator and associate professor of community and preventive medicine at URMC. "The risks of smoking and the benefits of quitting extend across the life span. People who quit smoking at all ages live longer, healthier lives."

Project 50+ is part of the Strong Health's Project Believe, an ambitious and multi-faceted program with the goal of helping Rochester to become America's healthiest community by 2020. Smoking cessation programs are a key part of Project Believe's effort to promote healthy behaviors.

Researchers hope to enroll 1,200 smokers in the study and follow their attempts to quit for 18 months. This project is a continuation of previous NCI-funded research at the UR that also targeted mid-life and older smokers. Ossip-Klein says that most smokers need to make multiple quit attempts before they finally quit for good. Long-term habits take some time to change, and nicotine is a very addicting substance, especially after years of use.

Ossip-Klein notes that during any given one-year period, about one-third of all smokers try to quit but fewer than 10 percent succeed. However, if you track smokers over their lifetime, more than 50 percent do ultimately succeed.

"Each quit attempt provides the smoker with practice that will lead to success. The message is to try again until you succeed," says Ossip-Klein.

"We have spoken with hundreds of people who have quit and the one common thread they report is the tremendous sense of satisfaction and pride," she says. "They believe in themselves and feel that, 'If I can quit smoking, I can do anything.' "

Participants in Project50+ will receive an updated self-help manual designed for smokers ages 50 and over, access to a telephone quit-line, a website with web chat for internet users, and varying levels of telephone contact. All contact with the project will be by telephone and mail, and participants do not need to attend any classes or meetings. Smokers ages 50 or older interested in participating should call (585) 273-3871. Researchers are seeking volunteers from Monroe, Ontario, Livingston, Cayuga, Chemung, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne and Yates counties.

Media Contact

Leslie White

(585) 273-1119

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