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Monday Nov 12, 2012

Great American Smokeout Offers Another Opportunity to Help Patients Quit

Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in this country, contributing to more than 440,000 deaths -- or roughly one in five of all deaths in the United States -- each year. So it's no surprise that 70 percent of the nation's 43 million smokers say they would quit -- if they only could.

Millions of smokers try to quit each year, but those who go it alone are likely to fail. In fact, only 5 percent of smokers who attempt to quit on their own are successful.

But we can make a difference by helping our patients quit smoking. In fact, even simple advice increases their chances of being successful in their attempt to quit by 60 percent.

And, this week is the perfect time to brush up on our tobacco cessation skills and talk to our patients about tobacco. The Great American Smokeout is Nov. 15, and the American Cancer Society has an abundance of patient resources available to help people quit.

The AAFP also has an abundance of resources to integrate tobacco cessation efforts into our practices and to help us be successful in the long run, including tips for coding for tobacco cessation counseling, information about group visits, a pharmacologic product guide, quitline referral cards and more. You can find it all in the Ask and Act toolkit. 

Sure, delivering the same message about smoking to the same patients over and over may at times feel frustrating, but the time that we spend on Ask and Act has been proven to be one of the most clinically effective things we do in our offices. Brief tobacco cessation counseling for every smoker in our practices is more cost effective than screening and treating for hypertension, lipid disorders or breast cancer.

Primary prevention is even more important. We can make a difference by talking to kids about tobacco before they start. Most smokers have their first cigarette by ages 12 to 14, are hooked by 16 and have tried unsuccessfully to quit even before they can legally buy tobacco at age 18.  The Academy's Tar Wars program is a great opportunity to bring the tobacco-free message to kids in school.

Jeff Cain, M.D., is President of the AAFP.

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The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.