Research studies aim to help smokers stop by experiencing incentives

SAN ANTONIO (Nov. 19, 2008) —The American Cancer Society’s annual Great American Smokeout is Thursday, Nov. 20, and, as always, it brings national attention to kicking the habit.

Richard Lamb, Ph.D., professor in the Health Science Center Department of Psychiatry, has run National Institutes of Health-funded smoking-cessation studies since 1999 when he joined the faculty. Some involve cash incentives given to subjects when they stop smoking for a period of time, even a few hours or a day.

“We are interested in how people experience rewards that cause them to change their behaviors,” Dr. Lamb said. “We know incentives can help people quit smoking. Coming in contact with the incentives makes them more effective.”
For example, a pack of cigarettes costs at least $4. A smoker who doesn’t smoke that pack on a given day may understand he saved $4. He may even place coins in a piggy bank. But Dr. Lamb believes the smoker truly experiences the incentive when $4 is placed in his hand.
Studies for quitters last three to four months. Subjects are asked to come to the Department of Psychiatry weekday mornings for five minutes, so they should work or live nearby.

Other studies target those who aren’t trying to quit. “One study is daily for a week, and we ask people to be here for a little over an hour in the afternoon,” Dr. Lamb said. “We have them come in and do a performance task. Then we ask them to stop smoking for three days and have them do the same task daily. On Friday, they are allowed to smoke again and we measure to see if the task performance returns to the level from when they were smoking.”

To ask about your eligibility for the studies, call 567-5462.

Tips to Stop Smoking:
• Try stopping one day at a time, or even blocks of minutes at a time. Then decide if you can go further.
• Quit attempts create a cumulative effect. People learn what works and doesn’t work, and become more confident in their ability to change their behavior.
• Don’t buy the next pack of cigarettes! Put the money aside for some goal, especially one in the foreseeable future (such as a movie at the end of the week).
• Talk with your family physician about medications to help you quit smoking.
• If it is easy quitting for a day, go a second day; if still easy, go longer. “Any time our behavior changes, our brains change,” Dr. Lamb said.



The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $668 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $15.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 23,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and other health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging, transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, dentistry and many other fields. For more information, visit

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