Couples who attempt to quit smoking together have a nearly sixfold chance of success, according to a study which suggests that kicking the habit works best in pairs. "Quitting smoking can be a lonely endeavour," said Magda Lampridou from the Imperial College London in the UK.
"People feel left out when they skip the smoke break at work or avoid social occasions. On top of that, there are nicotine withdrawal symptoms," Lampridou said in a statement.
"Partners can distract each other from the cravings by going for a walk or to the cinema and encouraging replacement activities like eating healthy food or meditating when alone. Active support works best, rather than nagging," he said.
Half of coronary patients smoke and 90 per cent of people at high risk of cardiovascular disease are smokers. European Society of Cardiology (ESC) prevention guidelines advise against tobacco in any form, and people who stop smoking generally halve their risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers said.
"Smoking cessation interventions should incorporate couples where possible to achieve a smoke-free household," said Lampridou.
This study evaluated the supporting role married or cohabiting partners might have in smoking cessation. The researchers enrolled 222 current smokers who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease or had suffered a heart attack. Partners were also recruited: 99 were current smokers (45 per cent), 40 ex-smokers, and 83 never-smokers.
At the start they were asked about current smoking status, history of smoking, and previous quit attempts. Smoking status was validated with a carbon monoxide breath test.
During the 16-week programme, couples were offered nicotine replacement therapy with patches and gum. In one programme, participants could choose the prescription drug varenicline instead.
At the end of the programme, 64 per cent of patients and 75 per cent of partners were abstinent -- compared to none and 55 per cent at the start, respectively. The odds of quitting smoking at 16 weeks were significantly higher (5.83-fold) in couples who tried to quit together compared to patients who attempted it alone.
Previous research has shown that ex-smokers can also positively influence their spouse's attempts to quit, but in this study the effect was not statistically significant.
"As for non-smoking partners, there is a strong risk that they will adopt their spouse's habit," said Lampridou Researchers noted that further study is needed to confirm the findings in smokers who are otherwise healthy.