Local Smokers Struggle to Quit in 2013

An estimated 7,300 San Mateo County residents have already failed in their New Year's resolutions to quit smoking.

No one is under the illusion that smoking is anything but horrible for health. Long gone are the days of doctors prescribing cigarettes to pregnant women, people with asthma and polio patients. 

But still a chunk of the population risks cancer, among other afflictions, due to addiction to that nicotine rush.

The good news: people are trying to quit. According to a study released Tuesday by the American Legacy Foundation, 34 percent of adult smokers made New Year's resolutions to quit the habit in 2013. That is up from just 18 percent who resolved to quit in 2012. 

The study revealed that 67 percent of those who planned to quit cited the rising cost of cigarettes as a motive, while 58 percent mentioned health risks. 

According to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, 14 percent of San Mateo County adults are smokers, on par with the California average of 14 percent. Census data shows that 77.9 percent of San Mateo County is 18 or older, which means there are roughly 79,000 adult smokers in the county, 27,000 of whom resolved to quit cigarettes last week. 

Furthermore, the study shows that 53 percent of those trying to quit did not consult a doctor about quitting the last year. Of those people trying to quit without help, the majority relapse in eight days, according to Catherine Andrews of Home Front Communications. With Jan. 8 having passed, that means that probably at least 7,300 San Mateo County residents who resolved to quit smoking have already started again. 

On some of our local Patch Facebook pages, we asked readers how they're doing with anti-smoking resolutions, and the results are mixed.

"I failed yesterday :(," Megan wrote on the Half Moon Bay page.

"Still dominating," a Patch reader named David responded. 

City Cigarette Relapses* San Bruno 474 Millbrae 224 South San Francisco 649 Burlingame 294 Redwood City 763 Foster City 308 Menlo Park 617 Half Moon Bay 114 Pacifica 385 San Carlos 546 San Mateo 1,002 Belmont 297

*Estimated number of people who quit smoking Jan. 1 and started again by Jan. 8

The Legacy study shows that the average resolution to quit smoking, including those who seek help from a doctor and stick to a plan, fails within 30 days. 

“Research has shown that most smokers who quit on January 1 struggle to stay quit as the days and weeks go on,” said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, President and CEO of Legacy. “Many smokers may have begun their New Year’s quit attempt and have already relapsed... On average, research has shown that smokers make up to six to nine attempts before they finally quit for good."

Healton said it is essential to have a plan when trying to quit. Going cold turkey rarely works. Legacy recommends using the site www.BecomeAnEX.org, which helps people chart their progress in quitting smoking. 

“Overcoming the initial barrier of speaking with a primary care physician, pharmacist or dentist is critical," Healton said. "Once the conversation does get going, the outcomes can be extremely helpful to bolstering the quit attempts and ensuring the results are long-lasting." 

Including with the 34 percent of smokers who already resolved to quit, the Legacy study showed that 69 percent of smokers plan to quit in the next year.

Have you quit smoking or tried to quit? How did it go? What are your tips for quitting? Tell us in the comments!


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