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Poll: Americans Divided on Whether Positive or Negative Health Messages Help Smokers Quit

Getting help from friends and family is the most effective aid for a tobacco/nicotine user who is trying to quit, according to the results of an AOA survey.

By AOA Media Team


More than One Out of Four Americans Use Tobacco or Nicotine Products Daily, Help from Friends and Family Most Effective Quit Aid According to Poll

CHICAGO, May 3, 2017—An online survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association found Americans are split on whether positive or negative health messages are more likely to help tobacco and nicotine users reduce their use of those substances or quit.

Positive health information about the benefits of quitting was believed to be more likely to help someone reduce use of or quit using tobacco or nicotine by 34 percent of Americans, while 33 percent thought health information focused on the harmful effects of tobacco/nicotine is more likely to help.

The March poll of more than 2,000 U.S. adults revealed many Americans (23%) think collaboration with family members or friends is the most effective aid for a tobacco/nicotine user who is trying to quit. Nicotine replacement products such as patches, gum or mouth spray were believed the second most effective (22%), followed by prescription quitting medication (17%).

Nearly half of smokers try to quit each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and the majority of tobacco and nicotine users say they want to quit. Tobacco and nicotine use is the largest preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S. and a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other common chronic diseases. However, only 4 to 7 percent of smokers are successful in quitting each year. The poll found varying opinions on the helpfulness of quit supports.

Most Helpful Supports for Those Trying to Quit

Collaboration from family members or friends (i.e., joint quit attempt or family support) 23%
​Nicotine replacement products (e.g., patches, gum, mouth spray) 22%
​Quitting medication (i.e., prescription medication) 17%
​Ongoing counseling from a medical professional 11%
​Materials showing health outcomes resulting from tobacco/nicotine use 9%
Other ​5%
Nothing ​13%


“What’s often missing—and most difficult to prescribe—is a support network dedicated to health goals,” said Richard Bryce, DO, an osteopathic family physician practicing at the Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS), a federally qualified health center in Detroit.  “As an osteopathic physician, I’m an integral member of their quit team. Together, we identify reasonable lifestyle alterations that can reduce temptation and empower change.”

Adjusting the patient-physicians interaction to focus on creating quit “wins” can reset the conversation, and ultimately improve outcomes, Dr. Bryce added. On average, patients require seven quit attempts before they achieve success. “Every quit counts,” he noted.

Personalizing a Quit Plan

Osteopathic physicians review the patient’s physical, emotional state as well as their environment when developing a quit plan. A shared understanding fosters success on the patient’s terms.

  1. Identify individual triggers: Smoking reduction often starts by limiting exposure to specific situations and stressors. When possible, rethink the places—and potentially the people—that trigger the habit.

  2. Create layers of support: A coordinated approach is most effective for managing physical and mental cravings. Patches, pills and other smoking cessation products are best used in conjunction with counseling, and exponentially more effective when supported by family and friends, according to Dr. Bryce. When possible, Dr. Bryce schedules appointments with both the patient and their partner or family.

  3. Celebrate successes: A failed attempt is not a failure. Even reduced tobacco and nicotine consumption can have a real impact on individual health, and an extended network.

  4. Rework the reward system: Tobacco use is often tied to a specific reward impulse, which can be recalibrated. Over a period of time, that reward system can be rewired to receive a “buzz” from exercise, coffee or other more healthful triggers.

“As with any health objective, a quit plan must account for the other pressing health or financial concerns,” said Dr. Bryce. “Health improvements happen when we understand the person in the context of their wider environment.”

A range of online and digital tools are available to support tobacco health goals, including the CDC’s Quitline and Online Chat, which offer personalized support around the clock.

About the American Osteopathic Association

The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 129,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. Visit to learn more.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of AOA from March 23-27, 2017 among 2,201 U.S. adults. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Jessica Bardoulas.


Media Contact

Jessica Bardoulas
(312) 202-8038