Experts Available for Great American Smokeout Thursday (Nov. 21)

Psychologists can offer tips on successful cessation, and how Chinese meditation can help.


At any given time, two thirds of all smokers are considering quitting. A quarter will make a serious attempt each year – many as a New Year’s resolution. But only 7 percent will be successful in the first try.  Texas Tech University’s Lee Cohen, a smoking cessation expert and clinical psychologist, can explain what smokers should think about before quitting as well as what makes a successful quitting attempt. Psychology professor Yi-Yuan Tang can discuss how a certain type of Chinese mindfulness meditation unexpectedly helped smokers reduce tobacco use even when they didn’t intend to do so.


Lee Cohen, chairman of the Texas Tech Department of Psychology, (806) 834-2530,; Yi-Yuan Tang, Presidential Endowed Chairman in Neuroscience and professor in the Department of Psychology, (806) 834-8688,

Smoking Cessation Talking Points

  • Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S.
  • Usually, people require a significant reason to make a change to quit smoking, such as a health reason or becoming a parent or grandparent.
  • The exact personality factors that lead to quitting success are not well understood.
  • Smokers often don’t succeed in quitting on the first several tries. The average number of quit attempts is seven before someone is successful.
  • Medications can help, but quitters should look at both psychological as well as physical issues.

 Meditation Talking Points

  • The study looked at the effect of the mindfulness meditation known as Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT) on the pathways in the brain related to addiction and self-control.
  • IBMT, which involves whole-body relaxation, mental imagery and mindfulness training led by a qualified coach, has long been practiced in China.
  • Researchers discovered that by practicing the meditation exercise, smokers curtailed their habit by 60 percent. The control group that received a relaxation regimen instead showed no reduction in their smoking.
  • According to the fMRI results, smokers before entering IBMT had reduced activity in several parts of their brains that indicate impaired self-control. After two weeks of IBMT, smokers had significantly increased activity in the self-control areas of the brain previously impaired. No significant changes were found among smokers in the non-IBMT control group.
  • Many of the participants only recognized they had reduced smoking after an objective test using measured exhaled carbon monoxide showed the reduction.

 Cohen Quotes

  • “Quitting any addictive drug is complicated. Quitting smoking is even more so because it’s a legal drug. It’s associated with so many things. Smokers often wonder, ‘What am I going to do with all this extra time? How am I going to drink my coffee without a cigarette? How am I going to eat my meal without a cigarette? It’s part of everything they do, which makes quitting more difficult.”
  • “It’s not unusual for smokers to fail in their quitting attempts on the first several tries. If you are not successful, keep in mind that you’ve learned something for the next time you make that quit attempt. It’s important to look at what it was about previous attempts that led you to fail”
  • “It’s standard to offer smokers medication. But medication alone won’t be enough. It’s not as simple as just slipping on a patch. People should get into a group with people they can talk to. It’s interesting how someone who tries and fails numerous times can be very successful when they’re talking to people who understand what they are going through.”
  • “We are currently offering a free 10-week program called MIST to help people who wish to quit. People can email or call (806) 742-3737 for more information.”

 Tang Quotes

  • “IBMT originates from ancient eastern contemplative traditions developed thousands of years ago in China and Asia because human beings seek to grow themselves.”
  • “I started to study its effects in the 1990s and found IBMT can improve attention, self-control, emotion regulation, cognitive performance, immune function and brain plasticity. I’m not only the researcher but also a practitioner, which helps me better understand this phenomenon.
  • “I think that – like other ways of changing human behavior, such as exercise and a positive attitude – meditation is one way to help people calm down, reduce stress and improve performance and even understanding the meaning of life.”
  • “We found that participants who received IBMT training also experienced a significant decrease in their craving for cigarettes. Because mindfulness meditation promotes personal control and has been shown to positively affect attention and an openness to internal and external experiences, we believe that meditation may be helpful for coping with symptoms of addiction.”