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Link Between Urge to Smoke and Ability to Quit

Update Date: Apr 05, 2012 02:33 PM EDT

Those who successfully quit smoking had a weaker association between their urge to smoke and their ability to quit, A new study found using mobile technology.

Some people quit smoking on the first try while others have to quit repeatedly. Using mobile technology as hand-held computers and smartphones, a team of researchers from Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh tried to find out why.

"One thing that really stood out among the relapsers is how their urge to smoke just never dropped, in contrast to those who were successful in quitting for a month - their urge dropped quickly and systematically - almost immediately upon quitting," said Stephanie Lanza, scientific director of The Methodology Center at Penn State.

Saul Shiffman, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, followed 304 long-term cigarette smokers, who smoked more than a pack a day for 23 years on average, as they tried to quit.  Forty participants quit smoking for the initial 24 hours, but subsequently relapsed. 

Five times randomly throughout the day, mobile devices prompted participants to answer questions. These questions asked the smokers about their emotional state, their urge to smoke and if they were smoking. 

They rated their urge to smoke at that moment on a scale of zero to 10. Using this data collection method, the researchers collected data from subjects in their natural environments.

"Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with tobacco (and other) researchers, to help them understand these really intricate processes that are happening," said Lanza.

"We want to really understand addiction and how to break addiction, so that interventions can be targeted and adaptable," he added. 

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