Tobacco cessation treatment can and should be a team effort. Also, successful cessation attempts occur across multiple interactions — clinic visits, quitline phone calls, follow-up appointments, etc. The 2008 Public Health Service Tobacco Cessation Guidelines recommend organizing a patient's quit attempt around the "5 As" — Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist, and Arrange. Find out how to incorporate the 5 As into practice and access useful resources related to each A.

Additional Resources

The 5-A's of Tobacco Cessation

ASK:

Every patient about their tobacco use at every clinic visit. Responses should be documented. Current use and historic use is best measured by asking about duration and amount of tobacco use prior to the cancer diagnosis. Even though many cancer patients will report discontinuing their tobacco use immediately prior to their diagnosis, relapse is common, so it is important to assess tobacco use at each patient encounter.

Tools:

ADVISE:

Current tobacco users to quit immediately. Be clear about the risks of continued tobacco use and the benefits of cessation for patients with cancer. Try to personalize the information as much as possible, and include information on how continued tobacco usage can affect treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery.

Tools:

ASSESS:

Current tobacco users' willingness to quit. Encourage them so set a quit date. Patients may have many excuses for why they cannot quit or are not ready to quit. Be prepared to offer thoughtful responses to each answer or "excuse," reinforcing that quitting is important.

Tools:

How recently former tobacco users quit. Be sure to ask if they are facing any difficulties in their ongoing quit attempt, and identify individuals at high risk for relapse.

Tools:

ASSIST:

Current tobacco users in their attempts to quit. Put together a personalized quit plan for patients including target quit date, counseling, quitline or community referrals, prescription for FDA-approved tobacco cessation treatment agents (if needed), and expected quit-attempt challenges (including nicotine withdrawal symptoms).

Tools:

Former tobacco users who are at risk of relapse. Determine what challenges they are facing and make any necessary revisions to their current quit plan.

ARRANGE:

For appropriate follow-up with every patient. Follow-up contact, either in person or via telephone, should be made within a week or two to assess their progress in altering tobacco-use behaviors. Additional follow-up contact is recommended so that the importance of discontinuing tobacco use is conveyed to the patient.

For patients who are struggling to remain tobacco free, consider a referral to a psychologist or a professionally trained smoking cessation counselor. During the follow-up period it is important to reinforce the patient’s accomplishments regarding efforts made to change their tobacco use behavior. Contact can be particularly helpful to assess pharmacotherapy use and problems. In the event tobacco use has resumed, talk to the person, focus on the positives, and try to figure out how to make their next attempt more successful. Work with the individual to either modify their cessation plan or build a new one, paying close attention to any cultural, emotional, literacy, or behavioral barriers that may exist.

Tobacco Cessation Resources

You do not have to invest a great deal of time or money to equip your office with free resources to help your patients and staff quit smoking. Below are tobacco cessation resources you can share with your patients to help them overcome their nicotine addiction. You can also find links to tobacco cessation resources for health professionals. The resources below come from numerous organizations, including ASCO, smokefree.gov, the North American Quitline Consortium, and WHO.

Patients Health Professionals

Non-pharmaceutical Cessation Support

  • Smokefree.gov: Free tobacco cessation website with access to a toll free help line, quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources.
  • Become an EX: Free online quit-smoking program from the American Legacy Foundation
  • Quit for Life: Free online quit-smoking program from the American Cancer Society
  • Freedom From Smoking: Quit-smoking program from the American Lung Association. There is a small fee required to register for this program.
  • Quit Net: Comprehensive online tobacco cessation support program. QuitNet hosts the world's largest community of smokers and ex-smokers

Pharmaceutical Aids for Cessation

  • Way to Quit: Cessation program is sponsored by the makers of nicotine medications
  • Plan My Quit: Cessation program is sponsored by the makers of varenicline (Chantix/Champix)

For Global Health Professionals