Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death. Recent quitting smoking statistics suggest 70% of smokers want to quit and 7% will be successful on their first time. On average, smokers make between 8-11 quit attempts before successfully quitting. The more they try to quit, the more likely they will be successful. A comprehensive approach of behavioral counseling, medications, and motivational support is the most effective method to help someone remain abstinent on tobacco. As healthcare providers, we can play a significant role every day in helping anyone who wants to stop smoking quit this deadly addiction.
Healthcare providers should take advantage of each contact they have with a smoker to help and encourage them to quit. Whether the identified smoker is at the doctor’s office for a routine exam or at the pharmacy to pick up their refill, the healthcare provider should use this opportunity to assess their readiness for change and help move them from thinking about quitting to taking the first step to quit. Motivational Interview is an excellent patient-centered technique that uses empathy to engage patients on identifying their readiness, willingness, and ability to change. Simply providing the patient with a prescription for Chantix or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) when the patient is not ready to change is unlikely to produce a successful outcome.
Once the patient is ready to quit, it is important to avoid delays and begin formulating a smoking cessation plan. The provider can help the patient develop a plan that should include setting a target quit date, gathering social and family support, having strategies to avoid triggers, and selecting an appropriate therapy if needed. Action begins on the quit date.
When the patient quits smoking, it is important to continue the support and positive reinforcement. As mentioned above, only 7% of smokers who try to quit will be successful on their first attempt. The majority of smokers will require numerous tries before they will be successful. As providers, we can be their biggest cheerleader by celebrating any milestones they achieved in their quit attempt, as well as encouraging and supporting them when they encounter a setback. In addition to the moral support, we must not forget to monitor and assess their smoking cessation medication therapy and provide interventions when medication issues occur. For example, consider what you would do if the patient tells you that the nicotine patch they are wearing seems to work because they now smoke less cigarettes per day or they only take their Chantix when they have the urge to smoke. When we identify situations where medications are not used appropriately, it is important to step in and educate the patient on how to take their medications properly so it can maximize their chances of a successful quit attempt.
Helping a smoker quit smoking is one of the best things we can do for our patients. It not only reduces health risks for tobacco-related consequences, but it also helps the patient and those around them stay healthy. As healthcare providers, we are our patients’ biggest coaches and fans and we’ll be there to cheer for them to keep quitting so that they can keep winning for the rest of their lives.