Improving the chances of quitting smoking

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One in four adults in Missouri smokes. In Kansas, it's one in five. For those who want to quit, there's new evidence that a pill-patch combination will boost the chances.

Matt O'Connor, a trial lawyer in Kansas City, is a long-time smoker and a quitter many times.

"I'm great at quitting smoking. It's the not starting back part that seems to be a problem," said O'Connor.

He says the best stop-smoking tool he tried was Chantix, a pill.

"I didn't have the intense cravings that I had where it's all you think about," said O'Connor.

So what if you add the nicotine patch to Chantix? Some previous studies showed there was no benefit. But a new study, the largest to date on the combination, found the one-two punch works. At six months out, almost half of people who used Chantix and the patch were smoke-free compared to just a third of those who used Chantix and a fake patch.

"To have one combination almost a 50 percent quit rate, that's amazing. That's absolutely amazing," said Becky Captain, a nurse practitioner at St. Luke's Cardio Health and Wellness Center.

Captain says Chantix is good at blocking nicotine's pleasurable effect in the brain, but it doesn't block it all. You still get urges.

"So instead of reaching for the cigarette, if they can have the nicotine patch, that will help them get that pleasure and get that urge resolved," said Captain.

She adds that adding a smoking cessation program to the combination therapy should improve success rates over the long haul even more.

O'Connor says he's not quite ready to quit again, but when he is, he'll want to be prescribed Chantix again.

"I would want to have at least the Chantix. Probably look at the patch as well given that information," he said.

The study is in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Both drugs, especially Chantix, have risks. Researchers say more study of the combination's safety is needed. But with this research, more doctors are expected to prescribe the two together.

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