June 7, 2009

smoking_ceilingComputers Can Help People Quit Smoking

It's no surprise to anyone that smoking is the number one cause of preventable death worldwide. I've said a number of times in our podcast that if some universal authority empowered me to make just one decision to benefit everyone's health I would immediately abolish cigarettes. That said, and in an attempt to avoid a rant, this week Rick and I talked about the use of computer-based programs to assist people in their efforts to quit smoking: Effects of Web- and Computer-Based Smoking Cessation Programs in this issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

While this is a meta-analysis, a type of study we normally disparage because it throws a bunch of studies together and then draws conclusions that may or may not be valid, this study does show that computer-based programs do help. And anything that helps, especially when it comes to smoking cessation, is great.

Web based programs have so many advantages: they're convenient, they create communities of like-minded folks, and they can be personalized. One really interesting aspect to the study was these programs don't seem to work for that group of people who are the most computer-savvy: teenagers. Rick and I both found that really fascinating as we are regularly outclassed by our kids when it comes to technology use.

So for now, if you're trying to quit smoking, congratulations! By all means use a web based program to help, and keep in mind that previous research shows that the more modalities you use the better your chances of success. That might mean nicotine replacement, support groups, perhaps hypnosis or cognitive behavioral therapy. And remember, no matter when you quit there are always immediate health benefits.

Other topics this week included a risk score for type 2 diabetes, swine flu update, and the lack of benefit in stopping hormone replacement before mammography, all in the latest issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. Until next week, y'all live well.

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