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Helping Patients Quit Smoking, One Day at a Time

Quitting smoking is one of the most important decisions a person can make for their health. A strong support system and a positive mindset, even in the midst of failure, are essential to successfully quitting. When providers go out of their way to recommend resources and be a part of the patient’s journey to quit smoking, research shows the patient is more likely to stay off nicotine once they quit. The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have excellent resources providers can use to give patients extra support on their way to quitting.

The ACS’s Great American Smokeout

The ACC has encouraged thousands of Americans to participate in the Great American Smokeout on November 17. This event is a day for smokers to make healthy choices and seek out resources that can help them quit once and for all. The event encourages people to take it one day at a time: quitting doesn’t happen in one day, so start from day one. Providers should encourage their patients who smoke to participate by making a plan to quit smoking on the day of the event or setting up a smoking cessation plan that begins on November 17. The Great American Smokeout website provides success stories, a subscriber list with encouraging emails, and research patients can read about quitting.

The CDC’s How to Quit Resource

The CDC’s How to Quit page provides counseling tips, including anonymous quitlines, mobile apps, and online resources, as well as info smokers can find on medications, including nicotine replacement therapy, nasal spray, and doctor-prescribed medications. There are also countless videos and other online resources the CDC offers on cdc.gov/quit that allow patients to choose their own path on their journey to quitting.

Be Well Arkansas

Providers should develop an intervention plan for tobacco-dependent patients. Be Well Arkansas is a great resource for providers to use to help with this. There are two models that Be Well Arkansas recommends using: the 2A’s and R model and the 5 A’s model. Each of these models has proved effective in rendering tobacco-dependence interventions.

In the 2A’s and R model, health care providers should ask all patients if they use tobacco, advise tobacco users to quit through personalized messages, and refer them to cessation services like the ones mentioned above.

In the 5A’s model, providers should ask all patients about their use tobacco use at every visit, advise all patients who use tobacco to quit, assess patients’ readiness to make a quit attempt, assist patients with a quit plan, and arrange for a follow-up contact or referral.

Be Well Arkansas also offers free resources for tobacco education and cessation for all Arkansans. The resources can be shipped directly to a doctor and provide important tobacco information. Any of the methods listed above will prove beneficial for providers in helping patients to quit. Research shows that people who smoke often have the most successful attempts to quit when they have strong support, access to resources, and encouragement from their health care provider.

General Tips for Providers

Besides online resources, below are some little things providers can recommend that their patients try while on their quitting journey:

  • Remind patients that they are in control. They are the ones that must commit to quitting, not their providers, their family, or their friends.
  • Let patients know it is okay to let someone know when they are struggling or need encouragement. Having someone to confide in makes quitting easier.
  • Advise the patient and their family to find a simple substitute for cigarettes (e.g., hard candy, straws, toothpicks).
  • Encourage the patient to do things with their family that will keep their minds off smoking (e.g., going to the movies, going for a walk, riding a bike).
  • Encourage the patient’s family to create a smoke-free home. Nobody can smoke in any part of the house.
  • Suggest that the patient remove all lighters and ashtrays from their home, as well as any other items that would remind them of smoking.
  • Suggest that the patient wash any clothes, sheets, carpets, and drapes that smell like smoke. They should also use air fresheners to help block out the smell of smoke in the house and the car.
  • Encourage the patient’s family to help them with chores, such as laundry, groceries, cooking, or whatever else could lighten the stress of quitting.
  • Celebrate whenever a patient makes progress on their quitting journey.
  • Thank the patient for not exposing others to secondhand smoke.
  • Offer advice to the patient on resources they can use to keep up their journey to quitting.

It’s also important for the patient to know that it is okay to fail. In fact, most people do not stay quit after one attempt. Quitting is a multi-day, multi-stage process. Smokers trying to quit will have slip-ups. However, if providers make it clear to patients and their families that positivity and support should be at the forefront of their minds, whether the patient fails or not, then patients will have a more successful quitting journey.

Providers should remind the patient and their families of the following points to keep in mind with regard to the quitting journey:

  • Don’t doubt your ability to quit — even if you have failed multiple times. If you have the right encouragement, support, and positive mindset, you will successfully quit.
  • If someone is judging, teasing, or scolding you while you’re on your journey, remove yourself from the situation. Listening to their remarks will only make you feel worse and cause you to turn back to cigarettes to soothe your pain.
  • Don’t take frustration or anger from the person who’s quitting personally. They may be having nicotine withdrawals that are causing them to lash out. It’s important to understand that these symptoms are normal and will pass in a few weeks. The anger and frustration will not last forever.
  • If a person trying to quit slips up, don’t assume they will take back smoking as they did before. A slip-up may only be one or two puffs or just one full cigarette.
  • Most importantly, don’t ignore cries for help or encouragement. Support and encouragement are the most critical part of the journey.

Regardless of which resources or methods providers use to help patients on their journey, it’s important that patients know they have someone in their corner. Quitting smoking is hard, but it is one of the most important health decisions a person can make for themselves. Research shows that if a person has a strong support system and knows who/where to turn in times of struggle, they have an increased chance of quitting altogether. Providers are the first line of defense in teaching patients the best routes they can take in quitting. It’s critical that providers know their resources and be the ones patients come to for help, not the ones they’re afraid to call.

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Eldrina Easterly

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Chris Hughes

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