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Doctors: Don't Be Silent About Smoking

Armen Hareyan's picture

New York State Department of Health unveiled its "Don't Be Silent About Smoking" ad campaign, urging health care providers to make quitting a priority for their patients who smoke. The $1.3 million cutting-edge campaign features graphic images of health care providers with their mouths stitched or taped shut to dramatize how doctors can help their patients quit by discussing smoking.

State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., said, "We want to challenge clinicians across the state to take time at every office visit to talk to their patients who smoke." Studies have found that when health care providers take the time to talk to their patients about smoking and offer assistance with quitting, long-term success can be dramatically increased.

"Doctors spend a lot of time treating smoking-related health problems. If we did a better job at helping our patients who want to quit, we could save thousands of lives and alleviate a great deal of suffering," Commissioner Daines said.

"The Medical Society of the State of New York, working with the Department of Health, has stepped forward to provide education to physicians regarding the use of the 5As ("ask, advise, assess, assist, and arrange for follow -up") to approach their patients to encourage them to quit smoking. The program has been quite successful," said Dr. Robert Goldberg, D.O., president of MSSNY. "Now it is time for the payor community to move forward as well to provide coverage for patients to enable physicians to continue and to expand smoking cessation counseling in their practices."

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Dr. Mehmet Oz, physician, author and regular guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show, joined Commissioner Daines in endorsing New York's efforts. "Sometimes I feel like a broken record when I bring up the issue of smoking with my patients," admitted Dr. Oz, who is also the director of the Cardiovascular Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia. "But I think it's important for them to know that when they are ready to quit, I can help them."

The "Don't Be Silent About Smoking" campaign ads will be featured in medical journals such as The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), on medical web sites, in major newspapers and in other publications throughout the state. The campaign will begin on February 1, 2008 and run through June 2008. During the first week in February, several full-page ads will appear in the Science Times section of The New York Times; The Albany Times Union; The Syracuse Post Standard; The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and The Buffalo News among others.

The "Don't Be Silent About Smoking" campaign was created by Better World Advertising in collaboration with the state Health Department Tobacco Control Program and its 19 cessation centers across the state. The campaign's website, www.TalkToYourPatients.org, offers easy-to-access information and resources to help health care providers assist their patients who smoke.

Tobacco addiction is the leading preventable cause of death in New York. Approximately 25,500 New Yorkers die every year from smoking. While most anti-smoking efforts target smokers, this campaign speaks directly to doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants.

Two-thirds of smokers in New York State have visited a health care provider in the past year. "This presents a tremendous opportunity for doctors to intervene and give patients the help they need to quit successfully," Dr. Daines said.

Last year, 55 percent of New York's 2.6 million smokers attempted to quit. Most smokers try to quit without effective treatment and, as a result, the majority will relapse to smoking. Evidence suggests that helping patients to overcome chronic tobacco dependence is one of the most cost effective interventions clinicians can provide to improve their patients' health.