Remember when we thought that lung cancer was enough to get people to quit smoking?

Heart disease and stroke were soon added to the list of risks. More recently, smoking’s link to neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and dementia, is becoming more clear.

Not surprisingly, smoking also increases the risk of severe illness associated with COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Still, many continue to smoke – even those who are very sick.

Never Too Late to Quit

About 32 million American adults smoke cigarettes today, though smoking rates have dropped from 42 percent in 1965 to 13.7 percent in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society.

The good news for any of your patients who smoke is that it’s never too late to quit.

According to a 2016 American Journal of Preventive Medicine study, quitting smoking at age 60 or even 70 can prolong life.

There are resources available to help your patients quit at any age. The American Cancer Society reports counseling and medication can double or triple quitting success rates. The group also recommends support groups, self-help books, planning tools, and quit lines.

Get Involved

The American Cancer Society invites physicians to take part in the “Great American Smokeout” – it’s held the third Thursday in November. The society offers many free resources such as downloadable posters and flyers that you can hang up or pass out in your office. To learn more, call 1-800-227-2345 or reach them via live chat.

The CDC also wants to partner with physicians to help patients quit smoking. In addition to free downloads for the office and website, they also have free 1-800-QUIT-NOW notepads for health care providers and counselors.

For patients who prefer a more holistic approach, there are other options. In this TED talk, Dr. Judson Brewer explains how mindfulness training can be even more effective than traditional methods in helping people quit smoking.

The journey to stop smoking will be different for everyone. Taking advantage of timely events such as the Great American Smokeout can certainly help you provide the push your patients may need to quit.