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Still hooked

November 24, 2008|Shari Roan | Roan is a staff writer.

Who still smokes -- and why? Addiction experts acknowledge that it has become more difficult to make a dent in the country's smoking rates. Although millions of people have quit in the decades since the dangers of tobacco became known, about 43.4 million U.S. adults still smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two recent studies point to the challenges.

One, released at the recent meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, found that nicotine dependence has reached a 15-year high. Nearly 75% of people currently seeking smoking-cessation treatment are categorized as highly nicotine-dependent.

Another, published in the current issue of Nursing Research, examined data from the 237,648 nurses registered in the Nurses' Health Study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The study found death rates among former smokers in their late 70s were 1.5 times those of nonsmokers. Current smokers were 2.3 times more likely to have died by that age compared with nurses who never smoked.

Smoking among nurses declined from 33.2% in 1976 to 8.4% in 2003. But lead author Linda Sarna of the UCLA School of Nursing points out that nurses are intimately acquainted with the effects of smoking yet still struggle with nicotine addiction.

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shari.roan@latimes.com

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