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Thursday October 5, 2000

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UA researchers studying couples who smoke

By Niusha Faghih

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Psychology professors assess how couples influence each other in quitting

Two University of Arizona faculty members are researching the effects of smoking and how it affects couples.

Varda Shoham, the UA director of clinical training in psychology, and Michael Rohrbaugh, a family and consumer resources professor, are conducting the Couples and Smoking Assessment Project to develop the best treatment for couples. The study is designed for couples where one or both of the partners smoke.

A three-year study, which started a year ago, is funded by the National Institute of Health. Shoham and Rohrbaugh receive $90,000 a year from the group to conduct the study, Shoham said.

The couples in the study get up to 10 free weekly counseling sessions and have their behaviors observed.

"We assess how smoking fits the couple's relationship and anticipate interpersonal difficulties when one or the other spouse tries to quit," said Sarah Trost, the project's coordinator.

The sessions are more intense at the beginning, but they dwindle as time goes on, she said.

The goal for the spouse who smokes is to set a quit date and stick to it, Trost said.

Trost added that marital and family relationships play a key role in whether the smokers quit or not.

During phase one, Shoham and Rohrbaugh found eight smokers within the group of six couples. Five smokers quit at the end of phase one, Trost said.

So far, they are very encouraged with the quitting rates, Shoham said.

There are several requirements to the study. The smoking spouse has to have an existing heart or lung condition and be smoking at least 10 cigarettes a day. Both spouses must be at least 30 years old, couples have to be living together for at least two years or married for two years and both be willing to participate. The smoker also has to have a goal of quitting in two years.

"The study is important because it reaches a certain demographic that's not often reached by smoking cessation programs," Trost said.

The project is eventually going to see 40 to 50 couples during the three-year period, Shoham said.

The second phase starts in November.