As a health professional, you want to help every patient under your care to live a healthier and happier life. This includes providing your patients with the information, support and encouragement to empower them to quit smoking.
Whether you’re a GP, a specialist or a community support worker, every health professional can play an important role. As a respected source of information, you’re well placed to begin this life-changing conversation.
In fact, research suggests that brief interventions (including opportunistic advice, encouragement and referral) from health professionals will often lead to patients taking action.
Every patients deserves access to quitting support
It is important that every patient is asked about their smoking, regardless of the complexities of their care. This includes those undergoing cancer treatments, surgery, as well as people receiving treatment for a mental illness, and experiencing drug dependence.
Your conversation has a big impact
Did you know that one in 33 conversations will result in a person successfully quitting? Compare this to aspirin, where the NNT to prevent cardiovascular issues is 1,667 but is still done routinely!
There are many opportunities to initiate a one or two-minute quitting conversation during an appointment.
Combined support delivers best results
Quitting strategies that use combined behavioural support and pharmacotherapy are significantly more successful. Less than one in 25 cold turkey quit attempts succeed, but with professional help and medication this increases eight-fold.
How to address smoking with your patient
Evidence shows that brief smoking cessation interventions work. It can take as little as a few minutes and have life-changing consequences.
Start the Conversation was developed by Alfred Health, with the support of the Victorian Department of Health, and challenges health professionals to raise the topic of smoking with their patients. Real patients and clinicians share their experiences about the life-changing conversations that resulted in people quitting smoking.
How to deliver a brief intervention
There are many ways to deliver brief interventions and we appreciate that sometimes it feels like you just don’t have time.
The RACGP 5 As approach provides health professionals with an evidence-based framework for structuring smoking cessation by identifying all smokers and offering support to help them quit.
- Ask: “Do you smoke?”
- Advise: “The single most important thing you can do for your health is stop smoking.”
- Assess: “How do you feel about your smoking?”, “Are you ready to stop smoking now?”
- Assist: Will depend upon their readiness for change.
- Arrange: Affirm decision to quit, offer encouragement, refer to Quitline for ongoing support.
- Delivery of the questions is key. It should never feel like lecturing or imparting judgement. Showing empathy and understanding is crucial to maintaining and strengthening trust.
- Quit Victoria has developed a series of brief intervention videos for health professionals. These videos provide examples of some of the more common smoking cessation situations you might see in general practice and how best to handle them. Video running time is generally between one and three minutes.
- Review the various NRT and pharmacotherapy options and tailor recommendations based on the smoker’s individual situation.
- Refer patients to Quitline for further support.
Refer a patient to Quitline
Within the time constraints of a busy practice, it can be helpful to provide smoking cessation support by referring patients to Quitline.
Refer patients online or use the Quitline referral form.
You can download* and import the Quitline digital referral template into Medical Director, Best Practice or Zedmed. *WARNING: do not open the digital referral template file (*.rtf) with word processing software before importing. Doing so damages the format and requires you to repeat the download procedure.
Remember, Quitline doubles their chances of quitting successfully.
Smoking cessation information
- The Royal Australia College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Supporting smoking cessation: a guide for health professionals is intended to serve as a practical, succinct and evidence-based resource for healthcare professionals providing advice for smoking cessation.
- The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
- The National Tobacco Strategy is a policy framework for the Australian Government and State and Territory governments to work together and in collaboration with non-government agencies to improve health of all Australians by reducing the prevalence of smoking and its associated health, social and economic costs, and the inequalities it causes.
- The South Australian Tobacco Control Strategy 2017–2020 aims ‘to improve the health and wellbeing of South Australians by reducing the impact of tobacco smoking’.
- Tobacco in Australia: Facts and Issues is a comprehensive review of the major issues in smoking and health in Australia, compiled by Cancer Council Victoria. This work has been produced with the objective of bringing about a reduction in death and disease caused by tobacco use.
- National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Smoking and tobacco guidance is a collection of NICE products on smoking and tobacco.
- National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Smoking and tobacco resources: research recommendations and shared learning give real-world examples of NICE guidance and standards.
- World Health Organisation (WHO) tobacco and media fact sheets are top-level overviews of smoking and quitting support facts.
- WHO Tobacco Free Initiative: global report on trends in tobacco smoking 2000-2025 and smoking cessation provides country-specific estimates of smoking rates up to 2025.
Resources to support your patient
Quitline has a range of resources available to clients and health professionals. These resources are provided free of charge to South Australian residents and organisations (except where indicated on the order form).
Click here to order resources.