How your GP can help you quit

content supplied by NHS Choices

Dr Michael Apple explains what GPs can do to help patients try and quit smoking for good.
Want to quit?

Contact your local NHS stop-smoking services or call the NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 022 4332 (7am to 11pm)

"GPs are delighted to help people who have decided to quit smoking. About 40% of smokers will die from a smoking-related condition, so we know that stopping is one change that will make a big difference to your life.

"Patients will see health benefits within days, such as improved taste and smell, while important benefits, such as lower risks of heart attack, stroke, lung cancer and improvements in breathing will happen in the first year or two.

"We've probably been chasing you to stop smoking if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, circulation problems or history of stroke, heart attack, angina, asthma or chronic lung disorders.

"My patients are often surprised to be asked about smoking when they see me about a painful knee, but many of us have computer consultation programmes reminding us to record smoking habits."

Why should you give up?

"Patients will see health benefits within days of quitting smoking"

"I may ask you why you want to quit now. Sometimes it’s symptoms such as a persistent cough or coughing up blood. Sometimes it’s because a relative has developed a smoking-related illness, such as lung cancer.

"For women, it's sometimes because they're thinking about pregnancy. But generally I don't dig too deeply. If you want to quit that’s great by me.

"It's important to check blood pressure and weight, and to reassure people that, on average, weight gain after quitting is just a few pounds. I like to know what you've already tried, as many products are available over the counter, the internet and from friends. It helps me choose what to suggest next.

"I'll then tell you about the various products, such as gum, nicotine patches and medication, and their pros and cons.

"We'll agree on a timescale, after which time I'll want you to come in for a review. I encourage people to try to quit with a friend or relative. I also point out the financial benefits of quitting, which can be thousands of pounds a year."

Stop smoking services

"There are excellent local NHS stop-smoking services. I'll give out details of these, especially to people who have tried several methods and who appreciate getting advice whenever they need it.

"These NHS services are very good at tailoring treatment to your lifestyle habits. With medication and the support of these services, you're four times more likely to give up successfully.

"Occasionally, I will prescribe bupropion (Zyban), a drug that reduces the craving for nicotine. This isn't for everyone as it can cause epileptic fits in people prone to them. It can also affect liver and blood pressure, so it needs close monitoring. But some people do very well with the medication, so it's worth considering.

"There's also a prescription drug known as varenicline (Champix), which blocks the effect of nicotine on the brain.

"All GPs realise that people try and fail in quitting smoking, just as they do in diet, exercise and other worthwhile lifestyle changes. It's part of our job to understand that and to sympathise, while gently encouraging you to try again."


NOTE: A depressed mood may be a symptom of nicotine withdrawal. But in people trying to stop smoking this rarely includes contemplating suicide or attempting suicide. These symptoms have been reported while attempting to quit smoking with Varenicline (Champix).


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