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Survey: Most Smokers Want to Quit

But Study Shows Only 1/3 of Smokers Use Counseling or Medication to Help Them Quit

Role of Doctors

Doctors can also do their part to get their patients to stop smoking for good. The new report suggests that the number of smokers who have been advised by a health care professional on quitting is slightly lower than what has been seen in previous reports. This doesn't necessarily imply that doctors are dropping the ball. The order of survey questions was tweaked from previous surveys, so that could explain the finding.

"Other national data sets that examined whether smokers are getting advice to quit from their doctors have seen no change, so this slight decrease may not be real," says study researcher Ann Malarcher, PhD. She is the senior scientific advisor in the epidemiology branch of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.

McAfee says doctors should discuss available quit-smoking medications and methods with smokers. There are more quit-smoking medications available today than ever before. These include nicotine-replacement patches, gum, lozenges, nasal sprays, and inhalers. Varenicline (Chantix) and bupropion (Zyban) are also FDA-approved to help people quit.

"Doctors should not be ganging up on, harassing, or making people feel bad about smoking because a large majority want to quit," he says.

Len Horovitz, MD, says that it is "do ask, do tell" when it comes to discussing smoking with your doctor. He is a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Quitting is not easy, and it doesn't always happen the first time you try, but it's possible, he says.

Doctors can also help navigate some of the rough patches for smokers that are trying to quit. "I discuss personal triggers and give alternatives," he says. "A lot of times all they really want to do is take a deep breath to relax, and they can do it without smoke in their lungs."

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