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Kicking Habit, With Online Aid

Thursday is the 28th annual "Great American Smokeout," a day when thousands of Americans try to quit smoking. Many go cold turkey, others try using tools like the nicotine patch or gum.

But now, reports The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay, there's another way to help smokers kick the habit. And it's as close as their computer.

Sarah Raleigh has taken advantage of the new method. She's been smoking since she was a teenager, and tried quitting countless times without success. Her position as a showroom coordinator for a plumbing supply firm has its stressful moments, which leave her craving a cigarette. "My triggers can be as simple as something not going my way, or I'm getting frustrated with the computer."

Now though, instead of lighting up, Raleigh logs on, to QuitNet.com, an online support group designed to help smokers stop.

Dr. Nathan Cobb is its founder. "We think the ideal candidate is anyone looking to quit or who has already quit and needs that support."

Here's how it works: Users log on to the site, where they can monitor their progress and are given access to stop-smoking resources. In addition, trained counselors are always online to offer advice. And perhaps most importantly, QuitNet users can instantly communicate with fellow quitters.

"There is always someone behind you or ahead of you, and someone who has already gone through what you are currently going through," Cobb explains. "So you can get support or advice from your peers at any time."

QuitNet members can also continue using other smoking cessation tools, such as the nicotine patch or gum. Senay says it's this one-two punch that many credit for QuitNet's high success rate.

Sarah is one user helped by the site. She's now gone more than 85 days without a cigarette.

"I've got more energy; I can breathe; it's just a completely different physical feeling now that I no longer smoke. I went swimming with my kids this summer. I was able to have races underwater with my kids."

Quitnet is considered so successful that several states and many HMOs pick up the cost of using it, Senay says. Other QuitNet users pay a low, one-time fee.

The American Cancer Society is enrolling people in numerous online smoking cessation programs like QuitNet to see how well they work, Senay adds.

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