Most patients want to quit – and think that willpower alone will get them there.

Nearly 2/3 of smokers were seriously considering quitting in the next 6 months – but only 6% are successful10,36

A patient’s willpower to quit (resisting cravings and temptations) is critical to succeeding to quit. But, willpower alone is almost always not enough – counselling and pharmacotherapy significantly increase the chances of success.


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There are things that you can do to help motivate a quit attempt and strategies patients can use so that they don’t need to rely on willpower alone:

1. Remind patients that smoking is a ‘bona fide’ addiction – not just a ‘bad habit.’

  • Smoking needs to be viewed by patients and healthcare professionals as a medical condition that is best treated with medication and counselling
  • But, patients often think that smoking is just a bad habit, and pride can get in the way of seeking help
  • Remind patients that quitting is challenging, but with help, the chances of success increase so there is no reason to go at it alone
  • Effective treatments are available: NRT plus counselling increases the chances of quitting successfully by nearly 4X vs. willpower alone12

2. Remind patients of the serious health consequences of smoking.

Key facts and figures on the impact of smoking:

  • 85% of all new cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking11
  • Smoking causes 80-90% of COPD cases12
  • 30% of all smoking-related deaths are from heart disease and stroke13
  • Smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers14
  • Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing lung and other cancers, COPD, and other serious diseases

3. Talk to every patient at every visit about smoking

  • Even smokers who do not feel ready to quit, can quit (will expand on this a bit)
  • Most smokers want their healthcare professional to talk to them about smoking, even if they don’t bring it up themselves
  • Check in consistently about smoking

4. Ask if cost is a barrier

  • More than 50% stated that cost of pharmacotherapies for smoking cessation was a barrier (2012 survey); coverage for smoking cessation treatments has expanded around the country

5. Customize treatment to the patient

  • For patients who don’t feel that they have the willpower to quit abruptly: consider Reduce to Quit (will expand on this a bit)
  • For smokers who have tried to quit, but relapsed, or are heavy smokers, consider Combination NRT
  • For patients who need a hand-to-mouth sensation, consider specific NRT options (Inhaler)
  • For patients who have strong cravings, especially first thing in the morning, consider rapid-acting NICORETTE® QuickMist® which starts to work on cravings in 30 seconds
    See patient case studies >

6. Provide practical tips to help them stay on track

Suggest the ‘4Ds’ to cope with nicotine withdrawal:

  • Drink plenty of water – between 6 and 8 glasses per day, unless restricted by your physician.
  • Delay for 5 to 7 minutes (particularly the first-morning cigarette). The urge should pass.
  • Do something else. For example, do something with your hands (e.g., knit, Sudoku, games on your phone, etc.) or something relaxing (e.g., a calming bath).
  • Deep breathing. This releases endorphins and may mimic the sensation of the first drag of a cigarette.

Other tips to suggest:

  • Don’t bum or buy cigarettes
  • Don’t go at it alone – especially when cravings are at a high (e.g., periods of stress)
  • List out your sources of help (e.g., a close relative, a friend who successfully quit) and reach out to them for support
  • Make a list of all the things you normally do when you smoke and to try changing just one or two of these routines
  • Think positively: focusing on how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go
  • Find support online from other smokers trying to quit on the Smokers’ Helpline website
  • Carry a fast-acting NRT, such as gum, to help manage cravings and avoid relapse