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How to Provide Smoking Cessation Counseling: Ideas From the 2020 Tips From Former Smokers® Campaign and More Resources

A collage of four former smokers show the effects of tobacco

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the 2020 Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®) campaign.

With a goal of building public awareness of the health implications related to smoking, the Tips campaign is designed to encourage smoking cessation and urges people who do not smoke to protect themselves from secondhand smoke exposure. Since CDC launched the first Tips campaign in 2012, it’s estimated that more than 16.4 million people who smoke have attempted to quit, and approximately one million have successfully quit.

Additional research from the CDC has shown that emotionally evocative, educational media campaigns — such as the Tips campaign — that feature graphic images of the health consequences related to smoking and secondhand smoke have increased smoking cessation hotline calls and website visits. However, research has also shown that this increased interest in smoking cessation declines rapidly once the campaign ends. This is why it’s important that nurse practitioners (NPs) encourage smoking cessation in their practices and communities year-round.

Smoking, COVID-19 and Mental Health

The Tips campaign profiles real people who are living with serious long-term health effects from smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. Many of these conditions — including respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety — have also been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Patients with asthma or chronic lung disease, who have serious heart conditions or who are immunocompromised have all been identified as being at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. As such, it’s important for NPs to stress that patients who currently smoke, or who are exposed to secondhand smoke, may be at greater risk for, and may have a harder time recovering from, respiratory diseases like COVID-19.

Cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke have been found to suppress the immune system and cause heart and lung diseases. In addition, while the relationship between the use of vaping devices and the risk of COVID-19 is uncertain, any preexisting respiratory condition — such as e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) — could increase the probability of more severe COVID-19 illness.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, patients may be experiencing higher levels of stress, fear and social isolation. For individuals who have mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, their symptoms may worsen. NPs should pay particular attention to patients who are experiencing social anxiety or unemployment; are at risk for domestic violence or child abuse; have preexisting mental health problems; and who are coping with hearing loss, eyesight problems or cognitive decline.

Research has found that people with mental health conditions in the United States are more likely to smoke and tend to smoke more heavily than other patient groups. On average, these individuals account for nearly half of all tobacco-attributable deaths in the U.S. each year. Unfortunately, cigarette smoking can also exacerbate mental health conditions, complicate treatment and reduce the effectiveness of some medications.

Smoking cessation not only has immediate physical health benefits, but it can also improve mental health and substance use disorder recovery outcomes. Most people who smoke, including individuals with mental health conditions, do want to quit smoking. Evidence-based smoking cessation treatment, including counseling and medication provided by health care providers, can positively influence a patient’s chance of quitting for good.

Help Your Patients Quit Smoking

NPs play a key role in increasing the rates of smoking cessation in communities across the U.S., and the Tips campaign provides free materials for your practice and your patients!

Encourage patients to visit the Tips campaign website to hear stories from real people whose lives have been forever changed by smoking or secondhand smoke exposure. These stories can help explain the true impact smoking can have on people from all walks of life, including smoking-related diseases and disabilities such as cancer, COPD, periodontal disease, heart disease and stroke.

Let your patients know that they can get free smoking cessation advice by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569). Patients can also download The National Cancer Institute’s quitSTART mobile app, which offers free tips, inspiration and challenges to encourage smoking cessation.

Share the Tips campaign resources, including social media images, print advertisements, prewritten articles, podcasts, web badges and much more, to continue raising awareness in your community. Posters and videos are available for you to download and share in your practice, and handouts and clinician quick-reference guides can help steer your smoking cessation consultations with patients.

Learn More About the Tips Campaign