AAFP Joins CDC Campaign Urging Smokers to 'Talk With Your Doctor'
During a busy day in the office, have you ever stopped to ask yourself which of the myriad of services we provide are the most effective in improving our patients' health? Perhaps it is when we screen for cholesterol, perform a Pap smear, or recommend a mammogram.
All of these are important and proven to be effective in improving our patients' health. But you might be surprised to know that, according to The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, we are at our most effective when we are talking with our patients about tobacco cessation.
How can that be? On the surface, the success rate for getting patients to quit seems frustratingly low.
Yet, asking every patient about tobacco and giving brief cessation counseling has been proven to double the number of successful quit attempts by our patients. And the disease burden from tobacco use is so high that doubling the quit rate for our patients has a profound effect on their health and has been proven to be one of the most effective things we do in our offices, both for improving health outcomes and for cost effectiveness.
And don't be surprised if more patients begin to ask for help with smoking cessation during the next few months.
Today, the AAFP joined CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., (pictured with me here) and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A., in Washington to announce a new component of the agency's "Tips from Former Smokers" campaign that will encourage smokers to "Talk With Your Doctor" about quitting.
Last spring, the CDC ran a three-month, national tobacco education campaign featuring former smokers telling their own powerful stories about the horrors smoking inflicted on their bodies: heart attack, stroke, cancer and more. In late March, the CDC rebooted the campaign with new stories from former smokers suffering from a different array of health problems.
No doubt, you've seen or heard the advertisements that have appeared on television, radio, billboards and buses, as well as in magazines and movie theaters. The tales are grim and hard to forget, but so is the reality of tobacco use. Tobacco remains the No. 1 source of preventable death and disease in our country.
This month, the CDC will begin running new televisions ads to encourage smokers to partner with their physicians. The ads feature the tagline, "You Can Quit. Talk With Your Doctor for Help."
So, are you ready to help?
During last year's campaign, call volume to 1-800-QUIT-NOW more than doubled. Imagine how many more people might be helped with a high-profile reminder that physicians are a great resource for smoking cessation.
Seventy percent of smokers say they want to quit, but only one in 10 will manage to stop on his or her own. And they are in our offices every day. Smoking cessation is one of the most simple, cost-effective interventions we can offer. And that brief conversation can save lives.
If you are looking for resources for your office and for your patients, the Academy can help. The AAFP's Ask and Act program offers dozens of free resources, including a practice manual for treating tobacco dependence, coding information for cessation counseling, a pharmacologic product guide and a Stop Smoking Guide for patients.
The CDC's web page related to this initiative also has free resources for physicians.
Talking to our patients about tobacco cessation is one of the most important and proven things we can do for their health. Will you be ready when your patients who smoke ask to "Talk With Their Doctor?"
Jeff Cain, M.D., is President of the AAFP.
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