June 13, 2013

National campaign urges smokers to talk with their health providers about kicking the habit

Barbara Forbes loves a quitter.

Barbara Forbes loves a quitter.

And she is proud to admit, she is one too.

As the director of the Smoking Cessation Institute at Vanderbilt University Medical Centerand a former smoker, Forbes, MSN, APN, GNP, has spent the last 25 years helping thousands of smokers kick the habit.

Among the many tools Barbara Forbes, MSN, uses to help people kick the habit is a large jar of tar, foreground, that represents the amount of tar a smoker will ingest in a year. (photo by Joe Howell)

“We have had some longtime success stories,” said Forbes, a nurse practitioner. “We also have a lot of people who make multiple attempts to quit. It is OK to continue to try. There are no failures in the quest to end addiction to nicotine; rather we see it as moving another step closer to closing the learning gap on being a nonsmoker.

“Quitting smoking is a tough, tough task that requires support from many sources. What we do know is this – an individual has a greater chance of following through with the effort when someone from their medical team makes the suggestion to quit.”

That is why Forbes and her colleagues at Vanderbilt are excited about the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) campaign, “Talk With Your Doctor.”

The initiative encourages smokers to talk with their doctors, nurses and other health care providers about quitting smoking. The effort, being promoted by the Tennessee Department of Health, is part of a national tobacco education campaign to raise awareness about the effects of smoking and secondhand smoke exposure.

“Our message is simple: if you’re a smoker, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health and the health, peace of mind and pocketbooks of the people you love,” said John Dreyzehner, M.D., MPH, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States, according to the CDC. More than 1,200 people die every day in the U.S. while 9,700 Tennesseans die every year from smoking – more than 26 a day.

State statistics show that 1.2 million adults are current cigarette smokers with 70 percent reporting a desire to quit. About 50 percent actually try to quit.

“Smoking cessation efforts are essential,” said Pierre Massion, M.D., director of the Thoracic Program at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. “I see the folks who are at high risk of developing lung cancer in my practice. It is imperative that all primary care providers not only convey the message that smoking is bad, but also offer patients solutions and resources to become smoke free. It is no longer an option – it must become part of our clinical practice.”

Massion, professor of Medicine and Cancer Biology, is passionate about revving up support to help stop the smoking epidemic.

“This program is all about empowering the patient,” he said. “This needs to be a priority. Smoking cessation is the most important step in making a difference. I applaud this campaign.”

At Vanderbilt patients and employees have several options if they are interested in quitting smoking:

• The Kim Dayani Center Smoking Cessation Program offers an eight-week session that includes counseling and medication (when necessary) that is covered by most insurance plans. It is open to the community. Call 322-4751 for more information.

• The Occupational Health Clinic Quit RX Smoking Cessation Program offers counseling and treatment services and is available to employees. For more information call 936-0955.

• Health Plus Wellness offers one-on-one coaching to provide individualized support and encouragement by phone or in person for employees. Contact a wellness coach at 343-8943.

• Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine is available to anyone at 1-800-QUIT-NOW or 1-800-784-8669.

Forbes said the “Talk With Your Doctor” program, which launched in late May, will provide a much needed boost in the efforts to motivate smokers to quit as well as provide additional support to health care providers to encourage their patients to attempt to end the habit.