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Tindle to direct Tobacco Research and Treatment

Nov. 20, 2014, 8:36 AM

November is well-known as Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It is also the month that highlights awareness of less publicized forms of cancer including pancreatic cancer and stomach cancer.
All three of these diseases share a common risk factor — cigarette smoking.

Hilary Tindle, M.D., MPH

Fifty years after the first U.S. Surgeon General’s historic report that linked tobacco products to lung cancer, Vanderbilt has recruited Hilary Tindle, M.D., MPH, as director of Tobacco Research and Treatment. Tindle is a well-known tobacco researcher who contributed to the 2014 50th anniversary Surgeon General’s report.

“Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death and it is claiming 480,000 people a year,” said Tindle, associate professor of Medicine. “The public may not realize that smokers die an average of 13 years earlier than non-smokers.”

In addition to cancer, smoking also leads to cardiac diseases by hastening plaque buildup in blood vessels, or atherosclerosis.

Tobacco use is costing the U.S. $300 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity. These societal costs are not geographically uniform. States like Tennessee and Kentucky still have some of the highest percentages of smokers, which may contribute to the region’s designation as the Stroke Belt and the Cancer Belt.

Tindle said eight in 10 smokers see a doctor annually and seven in 10 want to quit smoking. Over half of smokers actually try to quit every year. But most don’t use quit aids like nicotine replacement products, prescription medications or counseling programs and, as a result, 95 percent of unaided quit attempts fail.

“We need to track and treat smokers in order to have an impact,” explained Tindle. “We can leverage the Electronic Health Record to track and treat tobacco users. We can proactively treat people over time and if they are not motivated to quit smoking, we can help get them motivated.”

Over the next year, VUMC will create and implement the new patient-centered tobacco control program which will include education for providers and staff.

The program will include assistance to patients while they are hospitalized.

“We can manage their nicotine withdrawal symptoms while they are in the hospital, regardless of the reason that brought them there,” said Tindle. “We will visit the patient at the bedside, talk to them about their tobacco use and discuss the relationship of smoking to their illness.”

At the time of discharge, VUMC will arrange for medication and counseling and provide an e-Referral to the Tennessee Tobacco Quit Line, a free telephone support program available at (800) QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669.)

Tindle said there are already compelling signs that Americans are willing to make lifestyle changes regarding tobacco use.

“There are now more former smokers than smokers. We can do it. We can’t afford to be pessimistic about changing smoking habits.”

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