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Brain scans of smokers taken before and 24 hours after quitting showed increased activity in certain areas of the brain that cue the person to crave a drag when they view photographs of others smoking, according to research published online Jan. 5 in Psychopharmacology.

“We saw activation in the dorsal striatum, an area involved in learning habits or things we do by rote, like riding a bike or brushing our teeth. Our research shows us that when smokers encounter these cues after quitting, it activates the area of the brain responsible for automatic responses. That means quitting smoking may not be a matter of conscious control,” researcher Joseph McClernon, an associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center, said in a news release issued by the school.

“So, if we’re really going to help people quit, this emphasizes the need to do more than tell people to resist temptation. We also have to help them break that habitual response,” he added.

“Only five percent of unaided quit attempts result in successful abstinence,” McClernon said. “Most smokers who try to quit return to smoking again. We are trying to understand how that process works in the brain, and this research brings us one step closer.”

Study co-author Jed Rose, director of the Duke Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research, said previous research he conducted showed that wearing a nicotine patch and smoking a cigarette with no nicotine breaks the learned behavior.

“The smoking behavior is not reinforced, because the act of smoking is not leading them to get the nicotine,” Rose said in the news release. “Doing this before people actually quit helps them break the habit so they start smoking less. We’re seeing people quit longer this way.”

Maybe Smoke Away can help but maybe not, what it ultimately comes down to, is your desire to quit smoking.

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Smokers with lung disease require more than brief smoking cessation interventions to successfully quit, researchers in the Oregon Health & Science University Smoking Cessation Center report.

Quitting smoking can be difficult for some and almost impossible for others. The reason — your genes — New research has found that a certain gene can make the difference as to whether or not someone will start smoking and then become addicted to the nicotine. In two studies featured in this month’s American Psychological Association’s journal of Health Psychology, researchers discovered that people carrying a particular version of the dopamine transporter gene are less likely to start smoking before the age of 16 and are more likely to be able to quit smoking if they start.In their article, ”Evidence Suggesting the Role of Specific Genetic Factors in Cigarette Smoking,” psychologist Caryn Lerman, Ph.D., of the Georgetown University Medical Center and her co-authors demonstrated for the first time that a link exists between smoking behavior and the dopamine transporter gene. In their study of 289 smokers and 233 nonsmokers, they found that individuals with a that specific genotype were less likely to be smokers than individuals without that gene. Furthermore, those with that gene started smoking later and were able to quit for longer periods oftime than other smokers.

Although many smokers attempt to quit at some point in their lives, only 20 percent actually succeed in quitting, say researchers. In their article, ”A Genetic Association for Cigarette Smoking Behavior,’‘ Dean H. Hamer, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute and colleagues found from examining 1,107 nonsmokers, current smokers and former smokers that the above mentioned gene was associated with certain personality characteristics that influenced a person’s susceptibility of being able to start and stop smoking.

A person with that genotype was found to have lower novelty seeking traits than a person without this genotype, according to the study. And because novelty seeking has been associated with a desire to smoke, said Dr. Hamer, ”a low level of novelty seeking could be a predictor of smoking cessation. Indeed, average novelty seeking scores were found to be significantly lower in former smokers than in current smokers. Those with low levels of novelty seeking have an easier time giving up cigarettes than those with high levels of novelty seeking.”

”We found that individuals who have the SLC6A3-9 gene were one and a half times more likely to have quit smoking than individuals lacking this gene,” said Dr. Hamer. ”However,” he cautioned that, ”the SLC6A3-9 gene is not a strict determinant of the ability to quit smoking, but rather an influence on an individual’s general need and responsiveness to external stimuli, of which cigarette smoking is but one example. Hopefully, with more of an understanding of the genetics of cigarette smoking behavior, we can develop more effective, targeted pharmacological and psychoeducational cessation strategies that will take these individual differences into account.”

The bottom line is if you smoke you need to quit. The makers of Smoke Away do not care how you do it, you just need to do it. Today!

Despite the well-known dangers of tobacco, more than a billion people worldwide still smoke cigarettes. On Thursday, in its first report on global tobacco use and control efforts, the World Health Organization helped shed light on why the number of smokers remains so high. Though tobacco is the world’s leading preventable cause of death—killing an estimated 5.4 million people a year (more than tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria combined)—the WHO report found that, while 152 countries have pledged to implement recommended tobacco-control policies, only a handful have taken strong action already. Governments around the world still take in, on average, more than 500 times as much from tobacco taxes as they spend on tobacco control.

—can governments help turn the tide?

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