Study: Tobacco Cessation Programs Need More Than Behavioral Interventions

June 17, 2020

For many employers, one of the most substantial ways they can improve their employee’s health is by helping them quit smoking. Giving up tobacco can help workers live longer, healthier lives while improving their productivity and reducing time lost due to smoke breaks, distractions from nicotine cravings, and health-related work absences. By supporting employee wellness and lowering healthcare costs, tobacco cessation programs can be of an enormous value for companies—but only if they are effective.

These programs often include behavioral interventions such as support groups or counseling, care plans for quitting, informative content, and/or treatment with a nicotine replacement therapy medication. Typically, employers are likely to offer programs that focus on behavioral support, like online support groups and digitally-delivered content. These can be easier to implement because they require less resources. However, a study conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research suggests that behavioral support on its own may not be enough.

The researchers performed a systematic review on tobacco cessation interventions and compared the impact of pharmacotherapy (the use of a medication) on quit rates. Participants in the study were assigned to one of two groups: (i) one that was given medication with behavioral interventions or (ii) one that was a part of a non-medicated control group that either received a placebo or did not receive a drug. Of the non-medicated participants, many still participated in their usual care and support groups.

The results showed that using medication in conjunction with the behavioral interventions significantly improved the success rates for quitting. Additionally, in a follow-up with the study’s participants, it was discovered that all seven US Food and Drug Administration-approved medications for smoking cessation were effective for increasing smoking quit rates.

Researchers also noted that, for pregnant women, behavioral interventions did increase the likelihood of success in quitting. However, it is important to note that pharmacotherapy is not recommended because of the limited information on how medication use could affect pregnant women or their developing babies.

 

Nicotine Replacement Therapy Leads to More Success

In light of this study, many employers may see why their current tobacco cessation programs that do not include nicotine replacement therapy fail to produce their desired results. For companies that do not yet offer any tobacco cessation programs, it is also important to see that the right combination of benefits can result in successful tobacco abstinence by participants.

While most tobacco cessation programs do not offer pharmacotherapy, Wellable’s EX Program includes nicotine replacement therapy alongside an active online support community, live chat coaching, digitally-delivered content and support, and personalized quit plans. By having access to a variety of different resources in conjunction with medication, employees have a much better chance of being successful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a 7.5% successful quit rate for American adults, but those enrolled in the EX program report a 34% quit rate.

Even though anti-smoking laws have largely pushed tobacco users out-of-sight (and therefore, out-of-mind for many employers), it is an addiction that affects an estimated 34 million or more Americans. With the rise of vaping and smokeless tobacco products, it is likely to remain a health issue that negatively impacts employee wellness into the future. Instead of assuming it isn’t a problem, employers should be proactive in offering a program that uses both nicotine replacement therapy alongside other support and guidance to help employees cut tobacco from their lives.

Topics: Facts and Research, Corporate Wellness


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