Michael Steinberg, MD, MPH, Associate Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, RWJMS;
Medical Director, Tobacco Dependence Clinic, SPH
BREAKING NICOTINE'S GRIP ON SMOKERS
The New York Times knew exactly where to go to find experts on tobacco dependence and the latest approaches to make quitting more than just a dream for addicted smokers: UMDNJ.
Michael Steinberg at the UMDNJ-Tobacco Dependence Clinic likens the burden of death from tobacco use in the U.S. to three 747s crashing, killing everyone on board every day—that’s 1,200 smokers dying each day. In spite of these dire statistics, nicotine addiction is often approached as simply a bad habit and not a chronic disease with physiological, behavioral and psychological components. Smoking is responsible for heart attacks, cancer and life-threatening lung disorders so aggressive that intense pharmacotherapy ought to be the rule, according to Steinberg. “What is missing is the appreciation for the ‘life or death’ circumstance that continuing to smoke represents,” he says. His research shows that when individuals use adequate medication and a combination of therapies, they are more successful in quitting and he discounts myths that circulate about the dangers of utilizing intensive treatments, even in medically ill smokers. “We would not withhold life-saving chemotherapy from a cancer patient for fear of side effects,” he says. In the April issue of The Annals of Internal Medicine, Steinberg and colleagues urged that the cost of nicotine remedies be covered by insurance.
UMDNJ figures prominently in the history of anti-smoking research and activism over the last half century. In fact, those U.S. Surgeon General warnings put on every cigarette pack in the 1960s were based on the work of the renowned NJMS professor Oscar Auerbach, MD, a pathologist who was the first to link smoking and lung cancer. To break nicotine’s awful grip on smokers’ health, UMDNJ and its affiliates support and fund programs everywhere, from SPH’s Center for Tobacco Surveillance and Evaluation Research and the Tobacco Dependence Program to RWJMS’s Division of Addiction Psychiatry and The Cancer Institute of New Jersey.