When it comes to quitting smoking, smokers are divided on whether positive or negative health messages help them quit.

A recent Harris Poll of over 2,000 U.S. adults found Americans believe health information focused on the positive impacts of quitting tobacco and nicotine to be slightly more effective than information focused on the negative impacts of these known carcinogens. The March survey was conducted online on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association, the professional family for over 129,000 physicians and medical students.

The poll revealed many Americans (23%) think collaboration from family members or friends is the most effective aid for a tobacco/nicotine user who is trying to quit. Nicotine replacement products such as patches, gum or mouth spray were believed the second most effective (22%), followed by prescription quitting medication (17%).

Doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) can be valuable partners in the effort to help smokers quit and enjoy healthier lives. With their focus on the whole person (mind, body and spirit), DOs can help patients form a personalized approach to smoking cessation that meets their specific needs and challenges.

“What’s often missing—and most difficult to prescribe—is a support network dedicated to health goals,” said Richard Bryce, DO, an osteopathic family physician practicing at the Community Health and Social Services Center (CHASS), a federally qualified health center in Detroit. “As an osteopathic physician, I’m an integral member of their quit team,” said Dr. Bryce. “Together, we identify reasonable lifestyle alterations that can reduce temptation and empower change.”

Nearly half of smokers try to quit each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and the majority of tobacco and nicotine users say they want to quit. Tobacco and nicotine use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. and it is a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other common chronic diseases. However, only 4 to 7 percent of smokers are successful in quitting each year.

Adjusting the patient-physicians interaction to focus on creating quit “wins” can reset the conversation, and ultimately improve outcomes, Dr. Bryce added. On average, patients require seven quit attempts before they achieve success. “Every quit counts,” he noted.

Personalizing a quit plan

Osteopathic physicians review the patient’s physical, emotional state as well as their environment when developing a quit plan. A shared understanding fosters success on the patient’s terms.

1. Identify individual triggers: smoking reduction often starts by limiting exposure to specific situations and stressors. When possible, rethink the places—and potentially the people—that trigger the habit.

2. Create layers of support: a coordinated approach is most effective for managing physical and mental cravings. Patches, pills and other smoking cessation products are best used in conjunction with counseling, and are exponentially more effective when supported by family and friends, according to Dr. Bryce. When possible, Dr. Bryce schedules appointments with both the patient and their partner or family.

3. Celebrate successes: a failed attempt is not a failure. Even reduced tobacco and nicotine consumption can have a real impact on individual health, and an extended network.

4. Rework the reward system: tobacco use is often tied to a specific reward impulse, which can be recalibrated. Over a period of time, that reward system can be rewired to receive a “buzz” from exercise, coffee or other more healthful triggers.

According to the CDC,  about 36.5 million American adults still smoke, and 480,000 Americans die each year from a smoking-related disease. Tips, the CDC’s national campaign on smoking cessation, aims to reduce these sobering statistics by giving a face of a real person to the millions of Americans who are living with these consequences.

Helpful reminders

While everyone has their own reason for wanting to quit smoking, such as the desire to lead a healthier life, save some money or keep their family safe, it is important for smokers to find ways to remind themselves of them every day. The CDC’s Tips campaign offers the following reasons to quit that you may not have considered:

  • Your chance of having cancer, heart attacks, heart disease, stroke and other diseases will go down.
  • You will be less likely to get sick
  • You will breathe easier and cough less
  • Your skin will look healthier and more youthful
  • Your teeth and fingernails will not be stained.

If you’re ready to quit

The CDC’s recommended resources include:

  • Free telephone-based state tobacco quitlines: 1-800-QUIT-NOW
  • The National Cancer Institute’s website: www.Smokefree.gov
  • The National Cancer Institute’s text-messaging quit smoking program: SmokefreeTXT; Text QUIT to 47848
  • The Department of Health and Human Services website: BeTobaccoFree.gov
  • Appropriate community-based or local cessation resources (e.g., classes, support groups)



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