Ex-Smokers Now Outnumber Smokers, But Cessation Efforts Still Face Uphill Battle

By Kay Manning
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Only a tiny percentage of smokers succeed in quitting without assistance, which is why the California-based Smoking Cessation Leadership Center is working on a number of fronts to prevent people from smoking and help them quit if they’ve already started.


“Her death was senseless. If I could have videotaped her last moments, traveled back in time and showed her how horrible her death would be, I think she would’ve quit,” Joe Konrath said of his mother, Laura.

As it was, Laura Konrath had four strokes, two heart attacks and coronary artery blockages and was in constant pain from plaque in her body and brain. She died in January at 71 after smoking four to five packs a day since her teens.

Joe Konrath, a novelist from Schaumburg, Ill., bluntly blamed cigarettes in her obituary and suggested hers be a cautionary tale.

“Her family is angry that she suffered so much and died so young. They’re especially angry that she chose cigarettes over living a longer, healthier life,” he wrote.

“What my mother had to endure, what her family had to endure watching her die, was entirely preventable.”

Smoking cessation efforts show progress, there are now more ex-smokers than smokers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, even though the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports cessation saved 8 million lives from 1964 to 2013, 17 million people died during that period of tobacco-linked problems.

The CDC predicts that if smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youths, 1 in every 13 who are 17 or younger now will die prematurely from a smoking-related illness.

Of the almost 37 million people in the U.S. who smoke, 70 percent want to quit, said Dr. Steven Schroeder, director of the California-based Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the 1998 settlement between the four largest tobacco companies and states seeking to recoup costs for treating smokers.

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