High-tech strategy to get more smokers quit

November 20, 2011

Almost everyone knows someone who quit smoking, or has tried to quit. And there has been some success with that in the U-S.

The smoking rate in 2011 is about half of what it was 40 years ago, with about 1 out of every 5 americans smoking these days.

But in recent years, that positive downward trend has stalled.

So now, 2 researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have won a million-dollar federal EUREKA science grant to find out what ads might jump-start the quit rate once again.

They will take a multi-disciplinary approach to find the best tactic.

Joseph Capella, Ph.D., of the Annenberg School of Communications, says, "Smokers are inundated with information, and they are concerned that they are hearing the same things they've always heard, and it just doesn't speak to them."

One avenue they want to explore is to tailor ads using the computer-based methods that Netflix and Amazon use to recommend products to customers.

Michael Kearns, Ph.D., of Penn's School of Engineering, says "They're taking something that some user they deem similar has watched, but you haven't watched, and that they rated highly, and guessing that you might like it too."

If the two can come up with a formula, the ads could be developed more quickly, and with much less expense.

Right now, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health is giving away one-month supplies of free nicotine patches. They are available while supplies last to those who live in Philadelphia.

For support in giving up the smoking habit, call the Pennsylvania free Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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