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Informed smokers twice as likely to quit

Smokers are more likely to kick the habit if they are told how "old" their lungs are, a new study published in the BMJ suggests.

The study, led by Hertfordshire GP Gary Parkes involved 561 long-term smokers over 35 in five GP practices. All the volunteers were given a lung-test to record the volume and rate at which air was exhaled from the lungs. They were also all offered help to quit.

One group were given no information about their results; the other were given their "lung age", shown a diagram of how smoking ages the lungs and learned how quitting would slow the rate of damage.

One year later, saliva tests showed that 13: of the smokers told their lung age had quit while only 6% of people in the other group had stopped.

"Lung age" is measured by comparing a smoker's lungs to the age of a healthy person whose lungs function the same.

"Telling smokers their lung age significantly improves the likelihood of them quitting smoking," Parkes says. "Anybody who had good, understandable information seemed more inclined to give up."

The study challenges research that claims to show that providing health information does not encourage healthy behaviour. (It also underlines the benefits of early screening because 16% of the people in the study had undiagnosed emphysema.)

Page created on March 10th, 2008

Page updated on December 1st, 2009