notobacco

Not Enough Smokers Find Quit Support At The Doctor’s Office

In National News on May 18, 2009 at 8:03 am

Health care providers are one of the most important allies a smoker can have, particularly when it comes to understanding health risks of smoking and learning about the quitting process. Why, then, have more than one in five smokers (21%) never talked to a provider about their smoking?

A national survey from the American Legacy Foundation of more than 1,000 current smokers reveals that smokers may be overlooking critical opportunities to talk to their health care providers about smoking – and, more important, about quitting.

“A surprising number of smokers aren’t taking advantage of their health care providers’ ability to help them quit smoking, and are therefore continuing to put themselves at risk for serious health issues,” said Cheryl G. Healton, Dr. P.H., president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. “Even more alarming is that when conversations do take place about smoking, patients don’t seem to be getting the information they need to begin a successful quit attempt.”

On average, smokers make 6 to 9 quit attempts in a lifetime. National government guidelines state that the most effective way to quit smoking is through a combination of medication and counseling. But of the smokers surveyed who have talked to their health care providers about smoking, just 20% were provided with either self-help cessation materials, information about classes and counseling programs, shown a video about quitting, or referred to a cessation specialist. Moreover, fewer than half (44%) were recommended a smoking cessation medication, such as over-the-counter nicotine replacement products or prescription drugs. Ironically, nearly eight in 10 (79%) smokers surveyed said they were satisfied with the help they received from their health care provider, even though so few were given resources to quit and all of them remained smokers.

The survey also revealed a disconnect between smokers’ perceptions of how their health care provider can help in the quitting process and their actions in actually starting a conversation with them. While 83% of smokers who want to quit in the next 30 days said they would feel comfortable asking for help, just 53% of this group actually asked their health care provider for quitting assistance.

These survey findings also identified the following barriers to smokers seeking and getting support for a quit attempt:

  • Only about half of survey respondents (52%) said they think a health care provider should help them quit smoking.
  • Nearly half of smokers surveyed (45%) said they are very concerned or concerned about their personal health.
  • While talking to their health care providers about smoking, 54% of respondents felt the negative emotions of guilt, uneasiness, annoyance, pressure or embarrassment, while just 28% reported the positive feelings of motivation, pleasure, or confidence.

“It’s clear from this survey that we need to change the way people think about quitting, and help them realize that nicotine addiction is a chronic medical problem that can be overcome with assistance from a health care provider,” added Dr. Healton.

To learn more about quitting smoking and to download a discussion guide on how to start an effective dialogue about quitting with a health care provider, visit BecomeAnEx.org. This survey was supported by a sponsorship from Pfizer Inc. You can also get free help from the Indiana Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

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