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Smoking Likely to Be With Us for Some Time

It is not always a matter of information and will to quit smoking. The behavioral patterns make it particularly hard to quit and smoking won't go away without a lot of work.

David Quick in the Post and Courier reports of Dr. Michael Cummings that he has great empathy towards smokers and their plight: “The empathy I have for smokers is from learning that it’s not so easy to put an addictive product down. And the only reason that cigarettes are addictive is that they have been engineered to be addictive, starting with the blending of types of tobacco to make the smoke inhalable.” Mr. Cummings lost a grandfather to heart disease, and an uncle, who was 48, to lung cancer. Both worked for Lorillard Tobacco, and smoked. More than half of all Americans smoked in their time.

Cummings comes to Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), with nearly thirty years of hands-on research work from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. MUSC President Ray Greenberg describes Cummings as “a top-notch scientist,” who “has made major contributions to research on tobacco control.” And, he “has a passion to put this knowledge into practical application. . . I would say that he is truly . . . a scholar, a gentleman and an activist.”

Dr. Cummings came to this particular activism in the mid-1990s, when Big Tobacco was being pursued on behalf of the taxpayers in Mississippi. In the course of the two days of sitting in on meetings around the deposition of Jeff Wigand (a whistleblower) he realized “I knew zip . . . [it] was eye-opening to say the least.” Out of that research and work with litigators he has proven “a valuable expert witness on nicotine.” He was involved in 13 trials this past year.

Cummings is empathetic to smokers because he has spent many years involved with smoking-cessation therapy programs. He acknowledges that smokers must be responsible and act on the knowledge we have now. Knowledge and will are key components. But the program or therapy must also take into account that cigarette companies have a product designed to deliver nicotine to the brain in eight to ten seconds. Gum takes five to twenty minutes (300 to 1200 seconds), and the patch takes about twenty minutes.

Beyond the brain made addicted there are further effects especially in relation to disease and the effectiveness of therapy. It affects the rate at which chemotherapy is effective, the toxicity of radiation therapy, and healing of wounds.

At the MUSC he will help develop a system, through the expansion of electronic medical records, to establish standards for identifying smokers, offering cessation therapy, and follow-ups. By putting more stress on the behavioral aspects of smoking cessation, the withdrawal symptoms, and methods for quitting you would have the functional equivalent of a vaccine to prevent and reduce the number of smoking related cancers.

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