Can Doctors Help Patients Quit Smoking?


This year, many people around the United States made a New Year’s resolution to quit smoking. According to U.S. News, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week in February. Wherever you may be on your current or upcoming travel physician assignment, this could mean many of your patients that tried to quit smoking this year are already back at it. What many physicians don’t realize however is that you have the power and influence to help patients quit smoking.

How to Help Patients Quit Smoking

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths per year. By 2030, the CDC estimates that tobacco will cause more than 8 million deaths each year. With so much information available about the dangers of smoking, it may seem like people who are still smoking are choosing to risk their health. This isn’t necessarily true, so physicians should make some of their own resolutions to help patients quit smoking.

As a physician, you have more influence and power than you realize. Here are three ways you can help your patients quit smoking for good this year.

1. Build Positive Physician-Patient Relationships

One of the best things you can do to engage your patients is to build a strong physician-patient relationship with them. I know as a physician, your patient face time is limited, but if you are able to build trust with your patients during that time, they will more likely to take your advice when it comes to living healthier.

When a patient trusts that their doctor actually cares about them and their well-being, you are in a better position to help patients quit smoking. Smoking cessation is no easy feat, but knowing that your physician is in your corner rooting for you can go a long way.

2. Urge Patients to Quit

Like anyone struggling with addiction, his or her journey to healing cannot begin until they truly want to quit themselves. So how can you get your patients to want to quit? Did you try asking them?

The U.S. Public Health Service reports that by just urging patients to quit smoking, about 5 to 10 percent of patients will actually do so. If you want to help patients quit smoking, start a dialogue that can reveal their fears, values, or belief systems.

If a patient is fearful for their children, for example, you can let them know how secondhand smoke will affect their children. Perhaps one of your patients cares very much about their physical appearance. Then you can let them know the negative effects tobacco use will have on their skin, eyes, teeth, and more.

There is no need to lie or exaggerate about tobacco effects to your patients – the real effects of tobacco are scary enough. Give clear and helpful statements that will encourage your patients to quit smoking tobacco.

3. Set the Date, Make a Plan

As soon as a patient wants to quit smoking, have them commit to a date to stop their tobacco use. Once they confirm a date, encourage them to share that date with the friends, family, coworkers, and social media networks. This is one of the best ways to help patients quit smoking. Sharing the date with others will further encourage patients to stick to it since they will not want to disappoint everyone that is supporting their smoking cessation journey.

Work with you patient to make a plan. Will they quit cold turkey or use smoking cessation aids? Quitting cold turkey is fast and free, but comes with more discomfort from withdrawal symptoms. Gradually quitting using aids will take longer and cost money, but allows smokers to taper off their usage. Many patients will benefit from also attending counseling sessions. Is this something that may interest or help your patients stop smoking?

Regardless of what method your patient uses to stop smoking, make sure that you encourage them to avoid trigger situations, remain active, and keep their mouth busy with gum or healthy snacks. Make sure that you make an effort to schedule follow-up visits to help keep patients on track and offer encouragement or advice.

The Doctor Difference

You may not be able to help every person you encounter, but physicians can surely help patients quit smoking. By building a positive and trusting relationship with them, you can increase their chances of success. Just by urging your patients to quit, you may help 5 to 10 percent of your patients’ live healthier lives.

You may think that you are just one physician so you can’t make a difference, but the truth is, if 100,000 doctors get 10 percent of their patients to quit smoking over the next 12 months, that would result in 3 million people stopping tobacco use. With nearly 1 million professional active U.S. physicians, just imagine how many patients they could help stop smoking and how many lives would be saved.

Author: Ekom Enyong

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