No Ifs, Ands, or ‘Butts:’ UA’s Dr. Judith Gordon Developing New Program to Boost Smokers’ Efforts to Quit Tobacco

Dr. Gordon has received a $700,000 NIH grant to create and evaluate a guided imagery program delivered over a telephone quitline and designed to appeal to men and racial and ethnic minorities, who are less likely to use a quitline for help in quitting smoking.

A new program designed to appeal to men and racial and ethnic minorities who want to quit smoking is being developed by Judith S. Gordon, PhD, professor and interim vice chair for research in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. Widely known for her innovative approaches to smoking cessation, Dr. Gordon will develop and evaluate the use of guided imagery as a tobacco-cessation intervention, delivered over a telephone “quitline” and companion website.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a program of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded $702,606 for the three-year study (NIH grant R34AT008947).

The study is a collaboration with the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, which operates the Arizona Smokers Helpline, a quitline known as ASHLine (1-800-55-66-222). Co-investigators on the study are Julie Armin, PhD, research assistant professor, UA Department of Family and Community Medicine; Melanie Bell, PhD, professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Uma Nair, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Health Promotion Sciences, with the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health; and Peter Giacobbi, PhD, associate professor, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences at West Virginia University.

Men and under-represented minorities are less likely to turn to a quitline when they want to stop smoking, Dr. Gordon says. But adding guided imagery—an intervention in which people immerse themselves in a multi-sensory, imaginative rehearsal of being a non-smoker, with all the health and economic benefits that provides—may encourage more people to use the quitline. The reasons: guided imagery commonly is used to train athletes, which may make the intervention more appealing to men, and an alternative approach to smoking cessation may attract smokers who have tried more mainstream approaches without success.

Smoking is at an all-time low in the United States, Dr. Gordon notes, with just one in 17 adults smoking cigarettes in 2014, according to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Arizona, 15.9 percent of the adult population smokes, compared to 18.4 percent nationally. Yet smoking still is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States, killing 480,000 Americans each year.

Drs. Gordon, Giacobbi and Armin collaborated on a pilot study last year of a guided imagery mHealth app—called See Me Smoke-Free—for women smokers. Preliminary data suggest guided imagery can be helpful to women who want to quit smoking, Dr. Gordon says.

The researchers want to see if guided imagery is effective when provided via a tobacco quitline. Guided imagery interventions usually are delivered in person, making this approach unique and potentially more cost-effective.

No matter how long a person has smoked, he or she will experience immediate benefits to their health, especially their heart, lungs and skin, and well-being, Dr. Gordon says. “When you quit smoking, you take back control of your life.”

About the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson

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The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn)