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Every smoker has a favored method of quitting and many try several before they succeed, according to a report released yesterday.
The report, produced by the Institute for the Study of Smoking Behavior and Policy, records a conference held last summer on the products and programs geared to stoping smoking.
Since 1984 the Kennedy School of Government study center has been the only research center in the country considering public policy issues surrounding smoking behavior.
Officials involved with the study and the conference said yesterday that the report does not aim to answer the questions of how smoking cessation services can be improved but rather to pinpoint the issues involved.
"The conference was designed to open up the issues," said John M. Pinney, executive director of the smoking study institute. "We obviously raised more questions than we answered."
Participants said they sought to discover what programs work because little research is available on the subject and because most of the smokers who try to quit do so on their own.
"We found that less than a quarter of those who try to quit [each year] use a program or product," said Pinney.
Officials added that the lack of data on which particular programs are successful makes it difficult to recommend them to smokers, insurance companies and other companies.
Thomas C. Schelling, director of the smoking study institute, said, "One of the difficulties with the programs that help people quit is that they do not have research units to keep track of the smokers afterwards."
Scholars involved in the study also suggested that heath care providers could be trained to counsel smokers and possibly double or triple the number who quit. Some previous smoking studies have indicated that doctors can be instrumental in encouraging their patients to quit. Five to seven percent of smokers quit when a heath care professional encouraged them, said Pinney.
Health care workers are reluctant to encourage patients who do not have smoking-related diseases to quit, study participants said.
"Currently the focus of their education is on curing, not preventing," said Chris L. Pashos, coordinator of the smoking conference.
Officials also said that the more than 35 million American who do not have health insurance or disposable income could slip through cracks and not be advised to stop smoking.
"These are people who are going to get sick more regularly and have no health insurance," said Pinney. "They will be served by the health care industry and some one is going to bear that cost."
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