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Smoking cessation guidelines for health professionals: an update

Abstract

This paper updates the evidence base and key recommendations of the Health Education Authority (HEA) smoking cessation guidelines for health professionals published in Thorax in 1998. The strategy for updating the evidence base makes use of updated Cochrane reviews supplemented by individual studies where appropriate. This update contains additional detail concerning the effectiveness of interventions as well as comments on issues relating to implementation. The recommendations include clarification of some important issues addressed only in general terms in the original guidelines. The conclusion that smoking cessation interventions delivered through the National Health Service are an extremely cost effective way of preserving life and reducing ill health remains unchanged. The strategy recommended by the guidelines involves: (1) GPs opportunistically advising smokers to stop during routine consultations, giving advice on and/or prescribing effective medications to help them and referring them to specialist cessation services; (2) specialist smokers' services providing behavioural support (in groups or individually) for smokers who want help with stopping and using effective medications wherever possible; (3) specialist cessation counsellors providing behavioural support for hospital patients and pregnant smokers who want help with stopping; (4) all health professionals involved in smoking cessation encouraging and assisting smokers in use of nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) or bupropion where appropriate. The key points of clarification of the previous guidelines include: (1) primary health care teams and hospitals should create and maintain readily accessible records on the current smoking status of patients; (2) GPs should aim to advise smokers to stop, and record having done so, at least once a year; (3) inpatient, outpatient, and pregnant smokers should be advised to stop as early as possible and the advice recorded in the notes in a readily accessible form; (4) there is currently little scientific basis for matching individual smokers to particular forms of NRT; (5) NHS specialist smokers' clinics should be the first point of referral for smokers wanting help beyond what can be provided through brief advice from the GP; (6) help from trained health care professionals specialising in smoking cessation such as practice nurses should be available for smokers who do not have access to specialist clinics; (7) the provision of specialist NHS smokers' clinics should be commensurate with demand; this is currently one or two full time clinics or their equivalent per average sized health authority, but demand may rise as publicity surrounding the services increases.

  • smoking cessation
  • guidelines
  • nicotine replacement therapy
  • bupropion

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  • CORRECTION

    The reference in the Telephone Counselling section "the then English QUITLINE" gives the impression that QUITLINE is no longer in operation, and should have read "the English QUITLINE". We are pleased to point out that the QUITLINE does still exist (and answered over 250,000 calls in the year 2000).

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