A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh has found that seeking out treatment might be a marker for smokers who are more nicotine dependent.
The study found that this might also be the reason behind the view that cessation treatments don't seem to work.
The new study is based on data from a government survey of more than 29,000 American smokers.
According to lead author Saul Shiffman, comparing the quitting success of smokers who try treatment to the quitting success of smokers who go it alone is like comparing 'apples to hippopotamuses.'
Shiffman said that cigarette users who turn to treatment are typically more nicotine dependent, likely hardcore smokers, than cigarette users who try to quit on their own,
"The people who choose to participate in treatment, people who've made the decision to pay for a medication, for example, are some of the toughest cases. They are the smokers who are most vulnerable to failure," said Shiffman, an addictive behaviour researcher at University of Pittsburgh.
"Think of it from the smoker's point of view. Who would go to the trouble to get treatment? It's the people, who've realized they can't quit easily on their own, those who've decided they need all the help they can get. That's exactly the kind of person who's likely to have a difficult time quitting," he said.
In the study, the researchers found that smokers, who seek out treatment, whether the help is talk therapy or medication, are more likely to fail.
However, Shiffman said that his study suggests being on treatment is a marker for smokers who are most in need.
In the study, about 44 percent of the surveyed cigarette users reported they had seriously tried to give up smoking in the preceding year. Out of the smokers who tried to quit, about 64 percent attempted to do so without the help of cessation treatment.
"The big practical point is we don't have nearly enough people seeking out treatment. Quitting smoking is essential to health and it's almost scandalous that so many people aren't getting available, effective help to quit," said Shiffman.
About 36 percent of the smokers who tried to quit said they used some kind of cessation treatment, either behavioural or pharmacological help.
The study is published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.