Don’t be a Careless Physician: Advise Your Patients to Quit Smoking!


Four of every nine smokers who saw a healthcare provider in the past year were not advised to quit, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2020 report on smoking cessation.

The report notes that quitting smoking can increase one’s life expectancy by up to 10 years. Among the other key findings:

  • Over half of adult smokers try to quit each year, but less than 10% of adults are successful each year.
  • Less than a third of adults who try to quit smoking use FDA-approved smoking-cessation medications or behavioral counseling. Medications and counseling each improve the odds of quitting, and using the two together can at least double the odds of quitting successfully.
  • In terms of nicotine-replacement therapy, combining a long-acting method (e.g., the patch) with a short-acting one (e.g., lozenges) is more effective than either alone.
  • Research remains “uncertain” on whether e-cigarettes are helpful overall in smoking cessation.

Overall, a landscape that combines both clinical and treatment-oriented strategies, as well as systems- and population-level strategy changes, is likely to create the most supportive environment for quit attempts and successful cessation. Clinicians and public health practitioners should seek to better bridge clinical work with population-based policy approaches to maximize tobacco cessation and reduce the overall prevalence of tobacco use.

Source: NEJM Journal Watch and Surgeon General Report

Read the 2020 Surgeon General’s report on Smoking Cessation here.

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