Posted September 17, 2007

Faculty-run programs make sure ex-smokers stay that way

quit smoking
Photo courtesy iStock
Nearly 50 million Americans are smokers, and more than 28 percent of those are college students. According to the Temple Health Empowerment Office, statistics here are similar to the national average; about 25 percent of Temple’s students report themselves as smokers.

Even though smoking is known to be detrimental to health, many people continue to do so because they are unable to quit on their own. But Temple is seeking to change that through programs designed to help members of the community, both on and off campus, not only stop smoking now, but quit for good.

One such program is Fit to Quit, led by Melissa Napolitano, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology and public health in the College of Health Professions and at the Center for Obesity Research and Education, which targets females between 18 and 21 who are ready to quit smoking.


Fit to Quit

The first phase of this program, conducted last academic year, collected data from focus groups of college-age women who stated that stress, peer pressure and weight management were the main reasons why they smoked. Students also felt that group-based programs that provide ongoing social support would be instrumental in helping them quit.

Those results laid the groundwork for the project’s next phase, for which researchers are currently recruiting participants. Beginning Oct. 8, participants will receive nicotine replacement patches, and will be assigned to either a supervised group exercise program or body image group counseling sessions.

“Women, especially between the ages of 18 and 24, often start smoking again because they’ve gained weight after quitting. Our hope is that these exercise and body-image programs will help them quit for good,” Napolitano said.

Citing research that states women gain an average of 13 pounds following a quit attempt, Napolitano said the plans offered through Fit to Quit will attempt to stop this trend by offsetting the decrease in metabolic rate that occurs after smoking cessation, and addressing the psychosocial and physiological needs that nicotine replacement alone cannot.

The program also will recruit students for a spring session in March. At the end of both eight-week sessions, participants will be contacted at one- and three-month intervals to determine whether they are smoking or not, if their amount of exercise has improved, and whether weight gain is still a prominent concern.

The Smoking Clinic

In addition to Fit to Quit, the Health Behavior Research Center in the Department of Public Health also offers several programs designed to educate Temple and the surrounding communities about the dangers of secondhand smoke, help with smoking cessation and prevent smoking relapse. Programs are run through HBRC’s Smoking Clinic on Main Campus, as well as through intensive community outreach efforts. These treatments are offered at no charge to participants, and students as well as residents in the community are encouraged to participate.

Philadelphia FRESH, a free health education program now in its fourth year, is designed to protect children from exposure to second-hand smoke by teaching smoking mothers about the need for a clean home air environment.

Bradley Collins, Ph.D, director of the HBRC, spent the first year of the program assessing the need and making connections with pediatric healthcare providers, clinics and health fairs in underserved communities to gain trust and lower barriers to smoking treatment access.

“A key element of Philadelphia FRESH is continuing to build and maintain strong ties to community partnerships to facilitate treatment access to high-risk and underserved smokers. Encouraging smokers to enroll in a harm-reduction treatment opens the door to increasing the public health impact of smoking treatment – particularly when we know there are many smokers at any given time might refuse to consider abstinence-only treatment if it’s the only option,” said Collins.

The program also aims to educate the entire family about the effects of second-hand smoke on small children.

“This is really a family-based program,” Collins said. “We work with the mothers, but we encourage other family members to participate, or at least have the mothers share the information with other members of the family to help provide a healthy environment in the home.”

An additional goal of Philadelphia FRESH is to provide resources for mothers who have the desire to quit smoking.

“We’d like to see our participants use the information we provide on secondhand smoke to make the decision to quit themselves, and if that is the case, we can certainly help with that,” Collins said, noting that women with very young children have an especially hard time quitting, due to the new stress of motherhood and other postpartum challenges.

Also under way at the Smoking Clinic is Quit 4 Good, which began recruiting participants this spring and targets men and women over 18 years old who are not only ready to quit smoking but who want to stay smoke-free for good. An intensive program of counseling and medication, Collins notes that participants quit smoking within the first three weeks of treatment, which includes medication and nicotine gum.

“Since this program focuses on relapse prevention, we provide intensive individualized counseling to help them quit, then provide a series of exercises to help with withdrawal symptoms,” Collins said. “We want to ensure that participants avoid relapse in the short term, but we also provide skills to reduce risk of relapse further down the line.”

Students interested in more information on Fit to Quit can contact research assistants Alia Tanko at 215-707-8650 or, or Dominique Ruggieri at 215-707-5320 or from the Center for Obesity Research and Education. Students and members of the community interested in smoking education and cessation programs at the HBRC can call 215-204-6598 or visit