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Using CBT to Target Body Image Issues in Female College Smokers

A recent study showed that using CBT techniques to target body image issues among female smokers in smoking cessation intervention programs can help lower their smoking rates. High smoking rates and the health risks associated with smoking are a serious concern. An alarming twenty-two to thirty-four percent of college students smoke cigarettes. Previous research has shown that smoking rates in some female college students are related to their body image beliefs. This research used the cognitive pathway of body image and smoking to explain how females’ schemas of their body image serve as a foundation for smoking. These previous studies suggest that when females ruminate about their weight, they develop a cognitive bias about their body, which leads them to use smoking as a method for weight loss.

In the current study published in Behavior Modification researchers created two intervention programs for female college students to help them decrease the number of cigarettes they smoked. Twenty-four female college students were recruited to participate in an eight-week cognitive behavior smoking cessation program. They were placed into either an internet smoking session and body image group or an internet smoking session and exercise group. Both groups participated in a an hour long smoking cessation workshop which involved cognitive behavior therapy techniques (e.g., goal setting and skill building) followed by either a body image workshop or an exercise class. In addition, an internet site called Blackboard was used for group discussions and to distribute handouts.

Smoking, body image, and weight concerns were assessed using questionnaires following the intervention. Results showed that the smoking cessation rates for those who participated in the internet smoking session and body image group were greater than the rates for those who participated in the internet smoking session and exercise group. This research supports the hypothesis that body image schemas affect smoking habits in female college students.

In terms of limitations, the current study used a small sample size, lacked a control group, and used web-based instead of face-to-face group discussions. All of the participants involved in this research recommended the program to others, and they suggested that future studies incorporate face-to-face programs to make sure that everyone can participate and attend the sessions. The authors recommend replication studies with larger sample sizes in order to obtain more significant findings.

Napolitano, M.A., Llyod-Richardson, E.E., Marcus, B.H. (2011). Targeting body image schema for smoking cessation among college females: Rationale, program description, and pilot study results. Behavior Modification; 35(4): 323-346. PMID: 21502132.

CBT for Smoking Cessation among Cancer Patients

Smoking, alcohol use and depression often co-exist at high rates among patients with head and neck cancer. Researchers recently designed a randomized, controlled study to see whether patients with head and neck cancer and at least one of the above traits improved with integrated Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) that addressed all of the above factors.

184 patients were randomly assigned to either usual care or 9-11 CBT phone sessions plus optional medications over a period of six months. At the end of the trial, those in the CBT group had significantly improved their smoking cessation rate as compare to those in the usual care group (47% compared to 31%).

The study suggests that an integrated CBT approach, which treats smoking cessation, alcohol and depression simultaneously, may improve smoking cessation rates and provide a more practical means of addressing these co-morbid factors.