Pack Mentality Applies to Quitting Smoking Too

Richard "Dickie" Dean, 46, was in the prime social position to quit smoking 17 years ago. His high school classmates who influenced him to start were long gone, and as an adult neither his family nor his friends smoked very much.

"It was one of those things when I was driving in my truck with my daughter -- she was 5 or 6 -- and she asked me to stop smoking," said Dean. "I said 'why?' and she said 'so you'll be around when I'm older.'"

Dean says he threw out the pack of Marlboros at that moment and quit cold turkey.

For a person in Dean's situation, the social situation could have made a difficult move easier. But for smokers in an isolated group, smoking researchers have a tough time reaching them.

Steven L. Bernstein sees a lot of isolated smokers in his job. He's an associate professor of emergency medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

"They often come in alone, and it can be difficult for us to find networks or friends to reach out to help them quit," said Bernstein, who added that these isolated people also tend to be alcoholics, have mental or emotional disorders or other problems.

"I think this study indirectly provides some evidence that we need to target these populations," he said. "Stigmatize the smoke, not the smoker -- these are still individuals we love, we work with."

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