Quit-smoking expert shares his knowledge

With Cayman’s smoking ban less than
half a year old, efforts by smokers to give up were given a boost last week
when a smoking cessation expert trained scores of people in how to help smokers
quit.

Elbert Glover not only trains
people to teach others to give up smoking, he has been instrumental in creating
the patches, gum and inhalers that have helped people give up and is now in the
process of getting a nicotine vaccine approved by the Food and Drug
Administration in the US.

“The nicotine gum, the nicotine
patch, the nicotine nasal spray, the nicotine oral inhaler, the nicotine
lozenge, the nicotine nicotine sublingual tablet, Zyban, ChantixI did phase two and
phase three trials for all of those, so I was in part responsible for getting
all those approved in the US because I am primarily a researcher,” Dr. Glover
said.

Speaking shortly after arriving in
Cayman last Thursday and before he began a busy round of meetings, seminars and
presentations organised by the Cayman Islands Cancer Society, Dr. Glover said the
nicotine vaccine, which is in its third of three trial phases, will prevent smokers
from getting a “kick” out of nicotine.

It works by increasing the size of
nicotine molecules using protein antibodies, making the molecules too large to
cross the brain barrier.

“It’s real simple. It’s like a
sieve… larger particles don’t go through. The smaller particles go through.
All we’ve done is create a larger molecule and it can’t go through,” said Dr.
Glover.

During his two days bringing the
quit smoking message to Cayman, Dr. Glover had a packed agenda with four school
presentations – twice at George Hicks High School, Triple C and Cayman International
– and a continuing medical education presentation for 40 medical professionals at
the Cayman Islands Hospital. He also trained 20 individuals in the StartSMART
facilitator training, and took part in several interviews with the print, TV
and radio media.

Those who took part in the
facilitator training undertook to lead smoking cessation courses.

Dr. Glover, who is a former smoker,
started the StartSMART programme, in which he teaches participants about the
evolution of smoking, the nature of nicotine addiction and the types of drugs
and quitting aids that can help people give up tobacco.

“It is a very strong addiction. I
came at it from the addiction side, and using some of these drugs, what we
found was anytime you add the drug to the counselling or the counselling to the
drugs, you can literally double your success rates.

“There was not anything available
out there. I contacted the American Cancer Society because I helped them write
their FreshSTART programme a long time ago and I said ‘you need to start using
drugs.’ They were not very receptive, they were primarily into counselling… My
wife and I then decided to just develop our own, we came up with SmartSTART,”
Dr. Glover said.

The programme is now used in more
than 300 hospitals in the US.

One of the challenges facing
medical professionals, counsellors and others who try to help people quit the
habit is that smokers nowadays are more hardcore than in previous years.

Dr. Glover points out that those
who can give up smoking relatively easily, or who can simply go cold turkey and
give up without the assistance of quitting aids, already have given up.

“We have a different kind of smoker
now than we did in the past. In 1915, the average smoker smoked about 10
cigarettes a day, about 15 or 20 years ago the average smoker smoked 20 cigarettes
a day, today the average smoker smokes 26 or 27 cigarettes a day. What we have
today is a more recalcitrant, more addicted smoker,” he said.

The average smoker has made between
six and nine attempts to give up smoking before he or she is ultimately
successful.

One factor Dr. Glover has noticed
in people’s failure to give up, even when using drugs or quitting aids, is that
they are not using those products properly.

He said, for example, many people
did not use nicotine gum correctly, chewing it like regular gum for long
periods. For the gum to be effective, the prospective quitter should adopt a
“chew and park” approach, chewing the gum four or five times and then letting
it rest in the side of the mouth. It should only be chewed for about 20
minutes.

“A lot of people chew it like
regular gum and when you do that, you swallow a lot of the nicotine and get
indigestion, hiccups and things of that nature… Some say it doesn’t work and
I find out they’re chewing one piece all day. After 20 or 30 minutes, they’ve
absorbed all the nicotine from the gum,” he said.

Drinking Coke while chewing the gum
also negates its effects, because the acid in the drink prevents the nicotine
absorption, so he advises that people should drink water instead.

Some people who turn to nicotine
patches to try to give up can also use them incorrectly. “You need to put it in
a non-hairy area. When you put it on hair, it unsticks. A lot of people were
shaving the skin and putting it there if they were very hairy and when you do
that, it’s a problem. You compromise that first layer of skin and there’s lots
of burning and itching,” he said.

He advised people who say they have
vivid and unsettling dreams while wearing the patch at night, to take it off
before they go to sleep and immediately put it on when wake up, as nicotine
remains on the skin even after the patch is removed.

For information on how to give up
smoking, contact the Cayman Islands Cancer Society on 949-7618 or email
[email protected]

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Participants in the StartSMART facilitator training pose with Dr. Glover.
Photo: Norma Connolly
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