In a 2015 survey sponsored by the American Lung Association and Pfizer of 146 adult smokers who were trying to quit, 80% of respondents said that receiving support from others was very important while quitting smoking. In the final installment of our three-part series with Dr. Albert Rizzo, we discuss the support systems that quitters should have in place to help them make the best of their quit.
In our first conversation with Dr. Rizzo, Chief of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Christiana Care Health System in Delaware and the American Lung Association’s Senior Medical Advisor, he talked about seeking help from a healthcare provider. During our second interview, he explained nicotine addiction, and why it is so hard to quit smoking. Now, read on to learn why Dr. Rizzo believes that support from others – whether in-person or online – can be very helpful for a quitter.
We recently talked about why the addiction to nicotine makes it so hard to quit smoking. What advice do you have for someone who has relapsed after that first attempt? What sort of skills can they employ to decrease their urges or push them to try quitting again?
Dr. Rizzo: If someone comes to me after being unsuccessful in an early quit attempt, I explain that we should figure out why they started smoking again before they make another quit attempt. If they quit for several weeks, a month or two, what drew them back? Commonly, quitters name a stressful event, such as death of a loved one or a financial situation, as a reason why they slipped. Other times they’ll simply say, “well, there was a wedding and somebody offered me a cigarette and I said, ‘ah I’ll just have one,’” and then go back down the road to smoking a pack a day.
These are hurdles they weren’t aware of the first time around – but ones they now can plan for. There may be things they can change in their daily routine to keep them from being in the same spot as a cigarette. Sometimes this means not getting together with friends who are smokers for a while, or avoiding certain locations that allow smoking. I think a quitter has to go into the process ready to figure out what those barriers are, and if there are going to be any triggers that bring them back to smoking.
In that case, what are some initial measures that quitters should consider before attempting their next quit?
Dr. Rizzo: I recommend that quitters utilize face-to-face, on the phone or online counseling during their quit journey. I always ask my patients if they have any support at home. Is there somebody else at home that also smokes and wants to quit at the same time? Are there people at home who do not smoke and are supportive of your effort to quit? I try to find out what the environment is like. If their home environment isn’t supportive, they need someplace or someone that is. Things like the Quitter’s Circle community and app can provide that support, and help get people through some of the hurdles to complete cessation.
Speaking of Quitter's Circle and the Quitter’s Circle app - how do you see technology playing a role in smoking cessation, be it through smoking cessation websites, support groups, apps, or e-counseling?
Dr. Rizzo: Websites that provide information about the hazards of smoking can be helpful. That knowledge can help push someone to the point of being ready to quit. You can even connect with a doctor to get a consultation or help with smoking cessation online. In general, I think that technology can be very useful to a quitter.
What’s especially good is interactive technology – technology that involves aspects of the actual quitting process. This might be by way of regular, online counseling, or something like the Quitter’s Circle app where you can have a circle of associates, friends, and loved ones to help support you through the journey. This app gives the quitter an almost constant ability to reach out when they have an urge to go back and reach for that cigarette. It also helps them track how they’re doing and look back on their progress – a real-time apparatus to help support their effort.
Dr. Rizzo: I would say that being part of the Quitter’s Circle is giving them a great chance to quit smoking. I think the support that quitters get from the virtual community is invaluable. Being a part of this community really shows that you’re making your best effort to quit smoking.
This is the third and final interview with Dr. Rizzo. You can read the first interview here, and second interview here. We are thankful for Dr. Rizzo’s insights, and hope you learned something new too!
If you’re wondering how to start the conversation with your doctor, you can download our Doctor Discussion Guide. To find a healthcare provider in your area, or speak to one on the go, visit our healthcare provider page.