Harvard Health Letter

In Brief: Calling it quits

In Brief

Calling it quits

Often it's not easy, but people do it. According to national health surveys, just over half of all Americans who were ever smokers are now ex-smokers.

Some can tough it out and snuff the habit out on their own. Others need help. Studies have shown that even minimal counseling by doctors (talking to patients less than three minutes) has a notable effect. Doctors are supposed to follow the five A's (ask about tobacco use, advise the person to quit, assess willingness to quit, assist in quitting, and arrange for a follow-up) at every visit by a patient who has indicated a willingness to quit. They're also supposed to steer smokers to one of the standard smoking cessation therapies, which include sustained-release bupropion (Zyban) and the various nicotine products (patches, gum, lozenges, etc.)

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