Sue Li Blog Article postLung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada and smoking accounts for more than 85% of these cases (1). While butting out is among the top 3 New Year’s resolutions, a surprising estimated 80% of people actually keep their resolutions for more than 24 hours (2). When it comes to smoking, it’s tough to quit cold-turkey. Did you know that it takes smokers an average of 7 attempts before actually being smoke-free?

Medications such as Nicoderm, Nicorette or the Varenicline (Champix) pill, act to substitute nicotine – the key addictive chemical in cigarettes – in our bodies. These drugs can help improve your chances of quitting, but the way in which your body handles nicotine may play a big role in determining which medication is the most effective for you. In a recent study, researchers compared quit rates among smokers on the nicotine patch to those given Champix and asked participants to state which was best to help butt out (3). It turns out the answer lies in the rate at which your body can break down (metabolize) nicotine. Researchers found that normal nicotine ‘metabolizers’ were more likely to stay smoke-free after 11 weeks of taking Champix than the nicotine patch. On the other hand, for slower nicotine ‘metabolizers’, the quit rates were similar regardless of whether they used the nicotine patch or took Champix. However, those treated with Champix reported more unwanted side effects, suggesting that this group of people would benefit more from using nicotine patches. While more studies will be needed, one thing is for sure – it’s never too late to quit!

P.S. Need an incentive to put a kick-start to quitting? Take the Canadian Cancer Society’s DrivenToQuit challenge. The rules are simple, quit smoking and win a car. The deadline to signup is Saturday February 28th, 2015. Click here for more details.

This article was written by Sue Li. Sue has a PhD from the University of Toronto and is currently working at Princess Margaret Hospital developing new drugs to treat prostate cancer. To find out more about Sue and her research check out her bio on the Members page.


  1. Canadian Cancer Society’s Advisory Committee on Cancer Statistics. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2014. Toronto, ON: Canadian Cancer Society; 2014.
  1. The Toronto Star: Accessed Jan 2015.
  1. Lerman C et al. (2014). Use of the nicotine metabolite ratio as a genetically informed biomarker of response to nicotine patch or varenicline for smoking cessation: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Lancet Respir Med. Jan 9 [Epub ahead of print].

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