HEALTH

CDC: 7-in-10 smokers want to quit; half have tried in past year

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — Most American adults who smoke wish they could quit, and more than half have tried within the past year, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday.

As many as 68.8% of current American adult smokers reported they want to quit and 52.4% of adult smokers tried to quit within the past year. Less than half (48.3%) of smokers who saw a health professional in the past year recalled getting advice to quit and 31.7% used counseling and/or medications in the past year. The use of these effective treatments can almost double to triple rates of successfully quitting.

“Smokers who try to quit can double or triple their chances by getting counseling, medicine, or both," CDC director Thomas Frieden said. "Other measures of increasing the likelihood that smokers will quit as they want to include hard-hitting media campaigns, 100% smoke-free policies and higher tobacco prices.”

The analysis is in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report is being published in conjunction with the annual Great American Smokeout, observed this year on Nov. 17. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the smokeout encourages smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day.

According to the report, making healthcare settings, as well as all workplaces and public places smoke-free, offers smokers additional encouragement to help them quit. The report also noted the healthcare industry can increase successful quit attempts by providing comprehensive insurance coverage with no deductibles or co-payments for cessation treatments and services.

Smokers can get free resources and help quitting by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or visiting SmokeFree.gov.


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Studies: Chewing gum ingredient xylitol could prevent pediatric ear infections

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — There is "fair evidence" to support the use of xylitol, a natural sweetener used in gums and mints, to prevent inner ear infections in healthy children, according to a new evidence review.

Xylitol, also known as birch sugar, is used in chewing gum to prevent cavities and has been shown to have antibacterial properties in lab tests. In the new review, researchers at the University of Toronto sought to figure out whether there is sufficient evidence to support the use of xylitol to prevent ear infections, the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, reported Thursday. The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.

Among three studies, there was a 25% overall reduction in the occurrence of ear infections in the xylitol group compared to the control group. The review’s lead author, Amir Azarpazhooh, suggested xylitol appears to work in healthy children by inhibiting bacteria.

Mark Shikowitz, vice chairman of otolaryngology with the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y., hypothesized that gum itself appears to be beneficial as a way to prevent ear infections, possibly because chewing gum opens and closes the Eustachian tubes, the tubes that link the throat to the middle ear. However, Shikowitz said, too much gum chewing can be an issue: he often sees young patients who develop jaw problems as a result.

About 6-out-of-every-10 kids have an ear infection in their first year of life, and about 83% have one by 3 yearsold. Doctors typically treat ear infections with such antibiotics as penicillin and tetracycline.


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Research: Tears being examined as a pain-free way to measure glucose levels

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Scientists are reporting development and successful laboratory testing of an electrochemical sensor device that has the potential to measure blood-sugar levels from tears instead of blood — an advance that could save diabetes patients the discomfort of pricking their fingers for droplets of blood used in traditional blood-sugar tests.

Tests of their approach in laboratory rabbits, used as surrogates for humans in such experiments, showed that levels of glucose in tears track the amounts of glucose in the blood. "Thus, it may be possible to measure tear glucose levels multiple times per day to monitor blood glucose changes without the potential pain from the repeated invasive blood drawing method," stated Mark Meyerhoff, lead researcher.

Their report appears in the American Chemical Society’s journal Analytical Chemistry.


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