Presidential campaigns aside, the campaign against smoking has a sure winner.  Every smoker with a desire to quit, said to be 70% of all American smokers, is a winner but most will require medical intervention to see success at the finish line.  Recently released data on smoking in America says smokers who team up with their healthcare providers are 30% more likely to stay the course and actually kick the tobacco habit than smokers trying to quit on their own.  Unfortunately, the study also says our nation’s healthcare professionals are not as well-versed as expected on the cessation of smoking or on the dependence of other tobacco-based products.

According to data released at CHEST 2008, 87% of American physicians and other healthcare professionals never got more than five education hours devoted to tobacco dependence.  When asked to identify tobacco-dependence treatment guidelines established by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), not even 6% could do so.  CHEST 2008, held in Philadelphia, is the 74th assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP).

Virginia Reichert, NP, led the research team through a survey of 600 healthcare professionals, 322 of whom were classified for study purposes as prescribers [doctors, nurse practitioners (NPs), and physician assistants (PAs)] and 278 of whom were nonprescribers (counselors, pharmacists, registered nurses, respiratory therapists, social workers, and students).  Survey topics included control issues, smoking prevalence, drug therapies that encourage success, how nicotine affects other medications, and symptoms and their implications during withdrawal from nicotine dependence.  Reichert’s research was headquartered at the North Shore-LIJ Health System Center for Tobacco Control, in Great Neck, New York.

Some findings include:

  • 87% of prescribers got less than five hours training in tobacco dependence during their education and professional lives.
  • 93% of the nonprescribers got no more than five hours training, either.
  • 6% of prescribers knew the tobacco-dependence treatment guidelines issued by AHRQ.
  • 5% of the nonprescribers knew it.
  • 16% of prescribers knew which anti-smoking drugs approved by the FDA required prescriptions and which did not.
  • 8% of the nonprescribers knew.
  • Only 1% of the prescribers could identify symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
  • 3% of nonprescribers could identify them.

Tobacco dependence is said to be a chronic relapsing condition, with many smokers trying time and again to quit but with no lasting success.  Without a more comprehensive understanding of the full nature of tobacco dependence, physicians are thought to be less likely to advocate quitting to chronic relapsing smokers.  Physician frustration at frequent relapses may also lead to limited recommendation of some of the drugs developed to make smoking easier and more likely to be successful.

Source: American College of Chest Physicians