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Help your patients make the best decision of their lives: quit smoking

Vishnee Sauntoo
No Smoking Day Campaign

We all know someone who smokes; in fact, one in five of the British population is still smoking. Every day you see patients who come in for advice or treatment and often their illness is related to smoking. So, what can you do about it?

Smoking cessation is widely provided within the NHS but how many of us take five minutes to discuss a smoking habit or even suggest giving up when talking to a patient? Did you know that two-thirds of smokers want to quit smoking? Often they don't know how to access help or they have tried before, failed and think they can never break the habit.

No Smoking Day, which took place on 9 March is a 28-year-old campaign, inspiring people who are ready to quit on the Day, with millions of others. It is the most cost-effective smoking cessation campaign in the UK.1 It is also a day to energise health professionals into planning awareness events and recruiting smokers who want to stop smoking. Sometimes having a poster in your waiting room with a website address or a telephone number, is all someone needs to start their quit journey.

The 2011 No Smoking Day theme - developed by smokers for smokers - was all about planning a quit attempt, and making sure that they have everything they need. It has to be their 'Time to Quit'. Smokers who want to give up have to take ownership of their quit attempt and most of all they need to make this decision for themselves.

Often a health-related issue can be the reason for someone wanting to stop smoking; it can even be financial pressures or family. Whatever their reason may be, once they have reached that decision, it is important that they access a service as soon as possible before they lose the desire to quit.

While some patients think that going cold turkey - without support or stop smoking aids - is the best method for them, there is clinical evidence to prove that people are more likely to quit with help and support. There are many products that patients will be familiar with, such as, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches, gum and lozenges.

There is also the inhalator, which gives the dose of nicotine required to beat the cravings and is also shaped similar to a cigarette which helps with keeping the hands and mouth busy. More recent developments include a prescription product that reduces the desire to smoke and a mini-lozenge ideal for cutting down cigarette consumption. Sometimes combination therapy is ideal for those who have tried a single product and failed.2

Don't be afraid to ask the question "Do you smoke? Would you like to quit?" because sometimes that is all it takes to help your patients make the best decision of their lives.
The No Smoking Day charity has developed a new online hub dedicated to smokers who want to stop smoking at which includes a forum with 23,000 quit buddies.
 Kotz D, Stapleton JA, Owen L, West R. How Cost Effective is 'No Smoking Day'? Available from:
 NICE. Smoking Cessation Services. London: NICE; 2008.