If you’re trying to quit smoking cigarettes, or are supporting a loved one who is trying to quit, you most likely already know how hard it can be. But if you’re a frequent visitor here on Quitter’s Circle, you’ll know that support from a healthcare provider that includes counseling and medication can double your chances of quitting successfully.
Quitter’s Circle recently spoke with the American Lung Association’s leading medical authority, Dr. Albert Rizzo. As Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Christiana Care Health System in Delaware, and a past chair of the Lung Association’s National Board of Directors, Dr. Rizzo is a great resource to share tips and information to help you quit smoking successfully.
There is a lot to share, so we’re breaking it up into continuing posts over the coming weeks. Be sure to check back to read more of Dr. Rizzo’s insights on several topics related to quitting smoking.
Why should someone go to their doctor if they’re looking to quit smoking?
Dr. Rizzo: Going to the doctor and making a plan to quit smoking can give you a better chance of being successful. I think a doctor can also help patients if they are on the fence about whether they want to quit or not because a doctor is able to explain potential benefits of quitting smoking to them and help assess their readiness to quit.
Doctors can point out good reasons why a person should quit, whether it’s related to a pre-existing condition, or about medical conditions such as lung and heart disease, which quitting smoking could help prevent in the future.
The doctor can recommend one of the FDA-approved medications for smoking cessation and arrange for counseling, which can increase the likelihood of success.
The risks and benefits of smoking cessation are best discussed with your doctor, who can personalize the message to whatever medical situation presents itself. That is an added advantage of having your doctor be part of the program when you’re trying to quit smoking.
What type of doctor or healthcare provider should someone go to if they wanted to start the quit smoking conversation?
Dr. Rizzo: The best choice is their primary care physician, who is at the front line of helping with preventative care, as well as wellness in general, and smoking cessation is part of that. It’s like monitoring blood pressure, screening for colon cancer, doing mammograms, or looking for diabetic issues. Asking the patient about their smoking status should be part of any visit to a primary care physician.
If a patient is coming in to discuss quitting smoking, then that whole ten, fifteen, twenty-minute slot can be dedicated to talking about why they are there and what made them think about this. A doctor can talk about the benefits of quitting for that patient as well as the potential obstacles and how the quitting process may move forward.
You’re not a primary care physician, but a pulmonologist – someone who deals with lung health. What have you learned from discussing quitting smoking with your patients?
Dr. Rizzo: I would love to say that as a pulmonologist, I don’t have any patients that smoke, but that would be a lie. If someone is coming to me, it’s often because they have a smoking-related disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma exacerbation, or a chronic symptom like a cough or shortness of breath. Continuing smoking can worsen these issues. So, when I discuss treatment for lung diseases with patients, I always bring up the question, “are you still smoking?” If so, I strongly urge them to attempt quitting.
I think doctors realize that not every smoker will quit when we see them in the office. It may not be the right time for them to think about moving to the next step in smoking cessation. I think it’s up to the healthcare provider to at least bring up the discussion, whether the patient has tried to quit before or not. They may try to quit multiple times before they are successful, and I’d like for them to be as successful as possible early on – before they get to the point where they’re going to a pulmonologist like me for treatment. A doctor can help them realize that.
As a physician, I am trained to improve people’s health, and smoking is the number one preventable cause of premature disease and death in the United States. If I can get someone to quit smoking, I think I’ve done a lot for them.
This is first of three interviews with Dr. Rizzo.
If you’re wondering how to start the conversation with your doctor, you can download our Doctor Discussion Guide. To find resources to connect with a healthcare provider and how to discuss smoking cessation, visit our healthcare provider page.