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Physicians Key In Helping People Quit Smoking

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Montana physicians play a key role in helping people quit using tobacco products.

However, a Montana Tobacco Use Prevention Program (MTUPP) survey shows most people don’t often ask their physician to help them quit smoking.

Consequently, MTUPP sent 2,500 letters to Montana physicians urging them to take the initiative with their patients. The letter offers recommendations physicians can take to help patients who use tobacco products quit and the resources that are available, said Stacy Campbell, MTUPP cessation specialist for the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

“We know that physicians can be essential in helping patients quit smoking, yet only 27 percent of smokers we surveyed who were planning to quit asked their doctor for help,” Campbell said. “The decision to quit smoking is one that ultimately may save their lives.”

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Campbell is referring to the annual Adult Tobacco Survey, a survey of more than 2,500 Montana adults regarding their knowledge and attitudes about and their use of tobacco.

Campbell also pointed toward the U.S. Public Health Service’s recently updated ‘Clinical Practice Guideline Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence,’ which recommends physicians proactively speak with patients and, when possible, offer to develop a personalized quit plan. “When patients try to quit without treatment or counseling, only 3 to 5 percent are successful,” Campbell said.

The Adult Tobacco Survey reveals that 72 percent of Montana smokers plan to quit in the next six months, and 73 percent of those who use smokeless tobacco want to quit.

MTUPP’s letter also urges Montana physicians to ask patients who use tobacco if they want to quit. For patients who do, MTUPP encourages physicians to refer them to the Montana Tobacco Quit Line. The mailing includes a reference card explaining how physicians can help patients receive free nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patch or lozenges) or discounted Chantix, a new tobacco cessation drug, by accessing Quit Line services. Nearly one-third of Quit Line participants successfully end their addiction to tobacco products, Campbell says.

“We know that smokefree laws like the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act result in more people attempting to quit,” Campbell said. “With the law requiring Montana bars, taverns and casinos to be smokefree by October 1, 2009 there is no better time to quit than now. People are even encouraged to make it a New Year’s resolution.”