Irish study to find best way to quit smoking for good
One is a global empire with testimonials from Anjelica Houston, Anthony Hopkins and Richard Branson. These stars claim to be among the millions of smokers around the world who have kicked the habit thanks to the advice of a former 100-a-day smoker who ultimately died of lung cancer.
The other is a programme run by the HSE that uses hard-hitting media ads and an online and telephone support system to encourage smokers to quit for good.
And now, the Tobacco Free Research Institute (TFRI) at the Dublin Institute of Technology is using a controlled sample of 300 smokers as guinea pigs to test the success rates of Allen Carr's Easyway smoking cessation programme versus the HSE's Quit.ie initiative.
The 12-month Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT), which is free for participants and funded through the Department of Health's Lottery Fund, is intended to show which programme - if not both - is the most likely to help smokers quit for good.
The Allen Carr method was founded by the British accountant-turned-anti-smoking crusader who devised his 'Easyway' method of smoking cessation after trying unsuccessfully for years to quit his 100-a-day habit.
When he finally did quit after 33 years of smoking at the age of 48, he established his now world-wide chain of clinics and self-help books promoting his concept, which kept him smoke-free until his death from lung cancer at the age 72 in 2006.
The Quit.ie programme was launched by the HSE in 2011, resulting in 600,000 "quit attempts" since then.
Along with online and telephone support - including the National Smoker's Quit Line manned six days a week - it has run a number of hard-hitting media campaigns, including the stark message that "one in every two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease."
The campaigns also include a series of TV ads using the late Gerry Collins, the father-of-three from Greystones, Co Wicklow, who candidly spoke of how his addiction to cigarettes was literally killing him before he died of lung cancer due to smoking in January, 2014.
"Unusually, we have recruited publicly because we want to compare these two treatment modalities," said TFRI founder and consultant respiratory physician Professor Luke Clancy. "The Allen Carr method is well known all over the world but the efficacy has never been established," he told the Sunday Independent.
While the number of smokers in Ireland is at its lowest ever level, at approximately 20pc of the adult population, Prof Clancy, who was instrumental in bringing in the 2004 smoking ban, said Ireland still has a way to go if we are to achieve the health department's goal of being virtually smoke-free, with just 5pc of the population smoking by 2025. "We worried that no matter what we do, we won't reach this target," he said. "So we're looking to see can we improve things."
Already hundreds of smokers have signed up to the free controlled trial that will take place over the next 12 months in Dublin. After completing an online survey, participants are selected based on various criteria, such as age and number of cigarettes smoked a day.
Those selected can bail out any time after being randomly selected to take part in either the Allen Carr group or Quit.ie group. They will be monitored at one, three, six and 12-month intervals after signing a consent form and being assessed by a nurse who monitors weight and carbon monoxide levels in exhaled breath.
Those who stick it out for the whole year will be rewarded with the chance to enter a draw for a trips to Paris and the Caribbean.