Category Archives: Addiction

E-cigs/Vaping Interview on WHYY!

Last week I was a guest on the Philadelphia local NPR station 90.9 WHYY RadioTimes, with host Marty Moss-Coane, Michael Siegal from Boston University, and Reuters reporter, Jillian Mincer.  I was proud to represent the Southeastern Pennsylvania Tobacco Control Project, a program of the Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania, an affiliate of Public Health Management Corporation. Feel free to share/link. Any questions, contact me at smccormick (AT)

Looks like the audio was removed, but if I can find a new link or get permission to share it directly, I will. It was a solid discussion.



Sean McCormick, PhD (Public Health)

Temple OwlUPDATE: I successfully completed the Doctorate of Philosophy in Public Health at Temple University (concentration in Social and Behavioral Science)!! My diss is at the publishers. I will share links when they become available!!

In the meantime you can catch my work on ResearchGate.

Looking forward to the next big things and some structural equation modeling with the same smoking cessation, coping and urge data! No spoilers!

MASH-UP TIME! Social Cognitive Theories of Health Behaviors with Associative Learning

I am not a huge fan of music mash-ups, made famous mostly by artists like Dj Earworm, and Girl Talk. Yet, I wanted to post about mash-ups because they have been useful tools for me in explaining to myself my dissertation, and how the theories serve the broader purpose the research; using theory and evidence to inform decisions in terms of educational content, type of program (e.g. individual, group, telephone, web, mobile app) that will enable people to most consistently overcome difficulties quitting smoking.

Mash-ups are one or more songs, usually in the same or complimentary key signatures and are often at the same tempo. This allows the songs to fit together. Here’s a decent example .

Instead of trying to create new music, I will be layering two theories of smoking relapse as well as their respective descriptions of successful quit smoking attempts to better prevent relapse for people wanting to quit smoking (or changing any other behavior).

Instead of Gagnam Style vs. Ghostbuster’s Theme I used Associative Learning Theory (part of Pavlovian/classical conditioning) vs. Folkman and Lazarus, and D’Zurilla and Nezu, Transactional and Social Problem-Solving frameworks of stress, negative affect, and maladaptive coping ( high smoking-risk situations).

The basic assumption is that identifying these patterns could enable more effective support to high negative affect and stress-response smokers; those most likely to have difficulty quitting due to vulnerabilities in problem-solving, generating alternate solutions, managing negative emotions, and other such cognitive-affective-behavioral characteristics, that especially under stress are hypothesized to lead to relapse.

P.S. Next stop! Structural equation modeling of social problem-solving, negative affect, and smoking urge in baseline cue exposure data! pre vs. post exposure models! Details in the manuscript in the coming months. My dissertation is also at the publishers! For now find our work on Research Gate: Sean McCormick. 

Funding Cut for Washington State Tobacco Program that Saved $5 per $1 Spent

In the December 2011 edition of the American Journal of Public Health a 10 year study of Washington state’s comprehensive tobacco control intervention found that for $1 spent by the state, they saved $5 in hospitalization and treatment costs. Wonderful! What an incredible investment! 5:1 return!

Here is a graph illustrating when their program went into effect and the decline in % Adults who smoke in Washington state (compared to the national rate).
Washington Smoking Trends

The program consisted of indoor smoking bans, tax increases on tobacco products, media campaigns, a tobacco quit line, and community and school programs, among other components. This state-based program was meant to serve as a model for other states. Well, it looks like they did a great job. In terms of public health programs and cost savings of $1:$5 is excellent. So what happened? Washington Governor Christine Gregoire and the state legislature cut nearly all the programs funding for fiscal year 2012. Wait, What?!

Why would you de-fund a state program that is saving the state millions of dollars? Instead of writing in a little spending on tobacco control, they are essentially writing in five times the spending in state health care costs. The only explanation I can think of is that the state is so hard up for cash in the short-term that they are willing to kick those unfettered health costs down the road (and basically allowing for increased human suffering over the coming years). And/Or, given the current attitudes towards decreasing the roles of government, it may be that some folks view government-run tobacco control as outside the appropriate scope of government. Since tobacco does cost governments so much money in terms of care, it seems to me that they do and should have the authority to control the impact that tobacco has on the monetary bottom line. The health protection aspect is another story, one that gets at the heart of the arguments about the role of government.

Clearly, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of high-quality research that demonstrates the cost-savings and health-savings afforded by public health programs like tobacco control programs. There is also work that must be done to frame the issue as one that governments should and very much need to be involved in.

Smoke-Free Philly Video Contest

Video Contest Button
Attention Undergraduate & Graduate Students!
Enter the Smoke-Free Philly Video Contest for a chance to win $1000 while raising awareness about tobacco policy & control in Philly!

$1000, $500 and $250 will be awarded to videos ranked first, second and third. The winning video will also be featured on a local broadcasting outlet.

Entry Deadline – October 26th, 2011

For more info:

Nicorette “Suck-O-Meter” commercial taps less obvious benefits of quitting smoking

In a previous entry I commented on TV ads for Nicoderm patches (a GlaxoSmithKline product). The basic gist of my post was this–companies that sell these quit aids are attempting to make quitting seem more difficult than it actually is so that people are more likely to buy and rely on their product. I thought this was slimy and a little distasteful, but not surprising.

Recently, Nicorette Gum (another GSK product) released a series of ads featuring a “Suckometer”. This symbolic meter represents urges or cravings to smoke. They show people using their gum in situations that smokers are more likely to relapse (e.g. traffic jam) and how the gum makes quitting “suck less”.

The most recent ad “Quitting Sucks Office” caught my eye. Watch it here:

Basically, some of the workers are going for a smoke break and they ask their co-worker, Carl, if he wants to join them. Carl successfully declines their offer because he has just taken a piece of the gum.

What inspired this post was the very end of the commercial. A women, who happens to be carrying a “suckometer” (indicating that she is also attempting to quit), says “Hi, Carl”, smiles and looks down embarrassingly, as if she has a crush on Carl.

Is this commercial hinting at the fact that if you quit smoking you are more likely to meet someone and have a romantic relationship? Probably! Research has shown that non-smokers are more likely to be viewed as potential romantic partners and smokers are most commonly viewed as risky in terms of romantic relationships (Fishbein, Hennessey, Yzer & Curtis, 2004).

This is solid marketing. Not only because it demonstrates the gums effectiveness and provides a common situation in which the gum might be helpful but because it eludes to the fact that quitting smoking can lead to other benefits besides reduce health risks. It looks like GSK has changed tactics.

I think this marketing strategy partially redeems GSK for their past misdeeds. Instead of making smoking seem harder, they are highlighting a perk that accompanies quitting, making smoking seem more worthwhile.

I would be interested to see how these ads impact their sales (of both the patch and the gum) in comparison to ads that make quitting seem more difficult. Could we compare smokers urge/craving and their desire to quit following exposure to these two types of commercials? Possible research/dissertation topic!?

P.S. Is the lead actor John Malkovich!? Just kidding. :p