The Perspective

Looking to Quit? Talk to Your Doc

Did you ring in 2014 with a vow to quit smoking in order to debut a healthier “new you” this year? If the challenge has proven to be more daunting than you hoped, you are not alone. More than 68 percent of adult smokers want to stop smoking and more than 42 percent attempted to quit in 2011 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you’re looking to double your probability of success when it comes to quitting smoking, a health care provider’s advice and assistance helps to assure you will be more likely to meet your goal – and this being Las Vegas, who doesn’t like those odds?

Brief tobacco use interventions

In 2007, the Southern Nevada Health District first introduced the health care community to its “Brief Tobacco Use Interventions” program. The program is designed to support the efforts of health care providers as they delivered brief smoking cessation counseling to you, their patients, during office visits. Keep in mind you can speak to your physician, or a physician assistant, dentist, dental hygienist, nurse or a nurse practitioner about the benefits of quitting smoking.

Dr. Christina Demopoulos, Assistant Professor, Clinical Sciences for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), School of Dental Medicine, and State Dental Director, is a leading example of how health care providers can successfully weave brief interventions into an integrated health care model to increase the cessation efforts of patients. At the UNLV School of Dental Medicine, Demopoulos explains that the brief intervention model is not just taught as part of the curriculum, but that each student must complete a competency before they graduate. The competency involves a clinic patient who has indicated they are a tobacco user. The student must document the patient’s use, provide behavioral counseling and referral services through the course of the patient’s treatment.

This same training is also extended to the faculty of the dental school. “In order to ensure the training the students receive in a classroom setting is consistent with what they are seeing in the clinic, faculty training as part of our professional development,” said Demopoulos.

An integrated approach

The importance of this integrated approach cannot be understated. According to the CDC, tobacco use continues to be responsible for more than 400,000 deaths annually in the United States and results in more than 5.6 million years of potential life lost. In Nevada alone, tobacco use results in approximately $565 million in health care costs each year. These statistics, coupled with the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, make the New Year the perfect opportunity to revisit the health benefits of quitting smoking with a trusted health care provider.

Health care practitioners are in a unique position to provide effective interventions. Physicians and other clinicians have a proven success rate in lowering smoking among their adult patients. If you do take the proactive step of speaking with your health care provider, he or she will likely deliver a brief three-step intervention consisting of the “3 As:”

Ask: While collecting vital signs, a nurse or medical assistant will ask you whether you smoke or use other forms of tobacco and document your tobacco use status in your chart or electronic health record.

Advise: Your health care practitioner will briefly advise you on the benefits of quitting.

Assist: Medications may be offered to aid in quitting as well as referrals to community programs such as the Nevada Tobacco Users Helpline at 1-800-Quit-Now (1-800-784-8669). The Helpline offers free telephonic counseling services in English and Spanish. Health care providers may also discuss the use of over-the-counter or prescription medications to help relieve withdrawal symptoms.

Smokers frequently cite the benefits of a health care provider’s advice as a strong motivator for making a quit attempt and remaining abstinent – strong support for the use of brief interventions by health care providers. Considering the fact that most smokers say they want to quit, and almost half try to quit each year, the use of brief interventions by clinicians is vital to reducing tobacco use in Nevada. Smokers who succeed in quitting lower their risk of dying from cancer, their risk of having a stroke or heart attack, and gain as much as 10 years of their life expectancy back.

And if you are a tobacco user, or former user, who is self-motivated to become or remain tobacco-free, the health district and its community partners offer a variety of materials and resources to support your continued efforts. Visit the website for more information.


If you are a health care provider and would like to learn more about assisting your patients, visit the Brief Interventions webpage on the Get Healthy Clark County website. The webpage features helpful information, a video and a link to free educational materials.

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