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Cigarette Smoking (cont.)

Smoking Cessation Treatment

Treating tobacco involves helping the individual successfully stop smoking. This often requires integrated steps.

Smokers must partner with their doctors, families, spouses, friends, even employers, to make quitting successful.

Quitting is not easy. Every year, 34% of all smokers try to quit, but only about 2.5% succeed. Nonetheless, 1 million Americans quit smoking each year.

Treatment consists of two broad areas.

  • The medical conditions caused by smoking - respiratory illness, heart disease, circulatory disease, cancer, ulcers - need to be treated. In addition to stopping smoking, the individual's medical condition, if one is present, needs to be addressed by the patient's doctor; unfortunately there are too many conditions and treatments to be covered in this article. Smokers need to discuss individual treatments for their individual diagnosis with their primary caregiver.
  • The nicotine addiction also must be addressed and generally consists of a combination of the following:
    • Nicotine replacement therapy (gum, patch, lozenges, inhaler, or nasal spray): Some nicotine replacement products (gum, patches, and lozenges) are available over the counter, under several brand names, but are best used in conjunction with a doctor. Others (nasal sprays and inhalers) require a prescription. The non-prescription products are less expensive and work as well as the prescription products.
    • Varenicline (Chantix) is a prescription drug approved by the U.S. FDA to help adults quit smoking. Chantix acts on the nicotine receptors in the brain, stimulating these receptors and blocking the ability of nicotine to attach to these receptors. Chantix is taken seven days prior to the date an individual desires to quit smoking, and most people will keep taking Chantix for up to 12 weeks.
    • Group or behavioral counseling. The most successful quitting programs use combinations of drug treatment and counseling and have success rates of 5% after 1 year.
    • The prescription antidepressant bupropion (Zyban, Wellbutrin) has also been shown to help some people quit smoking.
  • Smokers trying to quit need lots of support and encouragement to help handle the inevitable urges to light up.
  • Doctors, although trained in the diagnosis and treatment of smoking-related illnesses, may be less comfortable in providing the counseling and drug treatment smokers need to quit.
  • Call your local chapter of the American Lung Association for further advice about smoking cessation programs.

Other Treatments

Treatment of the many diseases and conditions associated with smoking is dependent upon the extent and severity of the condition. Treatments are numerous, varied and are best done in consultation with the individual's primary care physician and associated caregivers (for example, cardiologist, oncologist). Smoking cessation products are available (see medical treatment previously) for home use for people interested in quitting smoking.

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