Brief Interventions for Patients Ready to Quit


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Preparing to Quit Tobacco

Man Walking Up Steps

Several quick steps during an office visit or hospital stay can help the patient in their quit attempt. Help patients develop a plan for quitting and facilitate anticipation of problems and problem solving. Help them to:

  1. Set a date to quit: Note - For some people, starting immediately is effective; for others, getting everything in place first feels important.
  2. Seek support: Tell the people in their lives that they are quitting. This includes asking for support and asking those who use tobacco to join them in a quit attempt or not use it around them.
  3. Anticipate challenges including withdrawal symptoms and address them. For example, lifestyle changes can reduce stress and improve quality of life (e.g., exercise or walking), and reduce exposure to smoking cues. Review what was learned from previous quit attempts. How to address withdrawal is specifically addressed later in this module.
  4. Remove tobacco and triggers to using it from their environment. For example, throw out cigarette lighters.
  5. Abstain completely: Recommend complete abstinence from tobacco and avoiding alcohol. Any smoking, even a single puff, increases the likelihood of a full relapse, although a slip does not mean failure.
  6. Be knowledgeable: Provide basic information about smoking/using tobacco and successful quitting. For example, provide the following information:
    • Withdrawal symptoms usually peak 1 to 2 weeks after quitting but may persist for months (Symptoms include negative mood, urges to smoke, and difficulty concentrating)
    • Describe the addictive nature of smoking.
  7. Prescribe medication: Recommend tobacco cessation medication to support the quit attempt (covered on a following page).Most patients will have their chances of success in quitting tobacco improved by the addition of a tobacco cessation medication (Fiore et al, 2008). Exceptions are specific groups for which there is not enough evidence of effectiveness, such as teens or pregnant women.
  8. Provide quitline number: Advise the patient of the local quit line number or provide the national number: 1 800 QUIT NOW for additional support.

(Fiore 2008)


Next we will show how to apply these steps with Ms. Ashley Mason, who we met earlier. She has returned after 2 months with another upper respiratory infection and is now ready to quit.

View ReferencesHide References
Fiore MC, Jaen CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update. Clinical Practice Guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Public Health Service. May 2008. Available at: Accessed on: 2013-09-26.