n South African Medical Journal - South African tobacco smoking cessation clinical practice guideline : guideline

Volume 103, Issue 11
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Tobacco smoking (i.e. cigarettes, rolled tobacco, pipes, etc.) is associated with significant health risks, reduced life expectancy and negative personal and societal economic impact. Smokers have an increased risk of cancer (i.e. lung, throat, bladder), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), tuberculosis and cardiovascular disease (i.e. stroke, heart attack). Smoking affects unborn babies, children and others exposed to second hand smoke. Stopping or 'quitting' is not easy. Nicotine is highly addictive and smoking is frequently associated with social activities (e.g. drinking, eating) or psychological factors (e.g. work pressure, concerns about body weight, anxiety or depressed mood). The benefits of quitting, however, are almost immediate, with a rapid lowering of blood pressure and heart rate, improved taste and smell, and a longer-term reduction in risk of cancer, heart attack and COPD. Successful quitting requires attention to both the factors surrounding why an individual smokes (e.g. stress, depression, habit, etc.) and the symptoms associated with nicotine withdrawal. Many smokers are not ready or willing to quit and require frequent motivational input outlining the benefits that would accrue. In addition to an evaluation of nicotine dependence, co-existent medical or psychiatric conditions and barriers to quitting should be identified. A tailored approach encompassing psychological and social support, in addition to appropriate medication to reduce nicotine withdrawal, is likely to provide the best chance of success. Relapse is not uncommon and reasons for failure should be addressed in a positive manner and further attempts initiated when the individual is ready.

Key steps in smoking cessation include: () identifying all smokers, alerting them to the harms of smoking and benefits of quitting; () assessing readiness to initiate an attempt to quit; () assessing the physical and psychological dependence to nicotine and smoking; () determining the best combination of counselling/support and pharmacological therapy; () setting a quit date and provide suitable resources and support; () frequent follow-up as often as possible via text/telephone or in person; () monitoring for side-effects, relapse and on-going cessation; and () if relapse occurs, providing the necessary support and encourage a further attempt when appropriate.

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