Harvard Mental Health Letter

In brief: Post-discharge counseling helps hospitalized smokers quit

In brief

Post-discharge counseling helps hospitalized smokers quit

A review of hospital-based stop-smoking programs in nine countries concluded that only the programs that continued after inpatient treatment ended enable patients to remain smoke-free.

Dr. Nancy Rigotti, director of the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, collaborated with two colleagues to analyze 33 clinical trials of interventions conducted between 1999 and 2007. Programs were divided into four categories, ranging from a single brief contact in the hospital to a program involving counseling that extended beyond the inpatient stay.

The researchers found that only the programs that involved stop-smoking counseling during an inpatient stay, followed by one month or more of counseling and support after discharge, increased the chances of smokers being able to quit. These long-lasting programs increased the chances of smoking cessation by 65%. The three less-intensive categories of intervention had no impact on quit rates. There was some evidence that nicotine replacement therapy might help further boost quit rates, but this was hard to determine since it was typically offered in conjunction with counseling.

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