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A new year’s resolution for health providers: treat smoking as a chronic disease

Health providers are the focus of a new ad campaign aimed at getting people to quit smoking. The Manhattan Tobacco Cessation Program is urging health providers to make it a New Year’s resolution to treat smoking as a chronic disease.

“Every year, people make positive changes in recognition of the calendar turning over,” said Donna Shelley, M.D., clinical associate professor at the NYU College of Dentistry and School of Medicine. “Health care providers are in a position to significantly help smokers if they themselves will commit to a positive change—if they’ll commit to treating smoking as a chronic disease.”

Shortly after the new year, the Manhattan Tobacco Cessation Program housed at the NYU College of Dentistry issued a spate of print and Internet ads. “Smoking Is A Disease” shows a cigarette receiving an injection and tells health care professionals to “Treat It!” Clinicians are directed to “www.talktoyourpatients.org”, which maintains additional resources to help health providers support their patients who smoke.

“Smoking Is A Disease” is the third phase of the award-winning “Don’t Be Silent About Smoking” campaign, which was launched in 2008 by 19 cessation centers from across New York state. While most anti-smoking efforts target smokers, “Smoking Is A Disease” speaks directly to doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and physician assistants.

“Physicians should take every opportunity to help patients quit smoking,” said Dr. Shelley. “Smoking is a chronic, relapsing condition. Smokers need their clinicians to ask them about smoking, advise them to quit, and assist them with the effective treatment. The ad is intended to remind clinicians of the responsibility they have to help their patients, and to inform physicians of the positive impact they can have on the health of smokers.”

Dr. Shelley adds: “Doctors need to regard treating smokers for their tobacco use as important as treating patients for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer,  and hypertension.

According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 24.8 million men (23.1 percent) and 21.1 million women (18.3 percent) in the United States are smokers, putting all of them at higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Health providers on the frontlines of treating tobacco addiction include the nation’s dentists. Dentists promote smoking cessation techniques to help patients lower their overall risk of heart attack, stroke or cancer, including oral cancer. They are uniquely positioned to counsel patients on tobacco use, as people often see their dentists two times a year.

The American Dental Association recommends a number of resources and guidelines on helping patients stop smoking, such as:

• Set a date to quit and stick to it. Choose a low stress time to quit.
• Enlist the support of family, friends and coworkers.
• Ask your dentist or physician about nicotine replacement therapy for use in cessation attempts. Using these medicines can double your chances of quitting for good.
• Remove tobacco and tobacco paraphernalia from your home, office and car.
• Seek tobacco-free environments to curve your temptations.
• Exercise. It may make you feel better about yourself and your decision to quit smoking.
• When you crave a tobacco, exercise the four Ds: delay—craving will pass in 5-10 minutes; drink water—it helps wash the toxins from your body; do something else—distract yourself by being active; and deep breathing—deep inhalations and exhalations are relaxing.
• Anticipate problems and have a realistic plan to deal with challenges.
• Call 1-800-QUITNOW or go to “www.smokefree.gov”. 

For additional guidance on tobacco cessation, visit ADA.org.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

01/26/2011

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