Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Study Shows Carotid Artery Plaque Screening Does Not Promote Smoking Cessation; Provides Further Evidence that Graphic Warning Labels Will Not Work

A new study published online ahead of print last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that ultrasound (US) screening of smokers for carotid artery disease and providing them with pictures of their blocked arteries fails to promote smoking cessation.

The study results were as follows: "At baseline, participants (mean age, 51.1 years; 45.0% women) smoked an average of 20 cigarettes per day with a median duration of 32 years. The US [intervention] group had a high prevalence of carotid plaques (57.9%). At 12 months, smoking cessation rates were high, but did not differ between the US and control groups (24.9% vs 22.1%; P = .45). In the US group, cessation rates did not differ according to the presence or absence of plaques."

The study concludes: "In smokers, carotid plaque screening performed in addition to thorough smoking cessation counseling is not associated with increased rates of smoking cessation or control of cardiovascular risk factors."

The Rest of the Story

Since showing smokers graphic pictures of their own blocked carotid arteries does not cause them to quit smoking, it is highly doubtful that showing them graphic pictures of other people with smoking-related diseases will work either.

This study therefore provides further evidence to suggest that the new graphic warning labels that will be required by the FDA later this year (pending legislation challenging the constitutionality of the regulations) are unlikely to have any substantial effect in promoting smoking cessation among existing smokers.

The FDA has already conceded that there is a reasonably likely chance that the regulations will have no effect on smoking prevalence. While almost no scientific studies support the hypothesis that graphic warning labels will cause smokers to quit, a wide range of evidence suggests that this intervention is unlikely to be very effective.

The rest of the story is that the graphic warning labels are yet another part of the hoax that is the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This legislation was designed to make it look like politicians and health groups were fighting Big Tobacco when in fact, the legislation does virtually nothing to put a significant dent in smoking rates.

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