4 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Smoking Cessation Program

Tobacco use is the most common substance use disorder in the U.S. Between 8% and 18% of healthcare expenditures, depending on smoking prevalence, are attributable to smoking.

Most smokers want to stop, and each year about 50% of all smokers try to stop for good, but only 6% succeed in any given year. Smoking cessation programs in the workplace can help increase the likelihood that a person who tries to stop will succeed.

Because treatment improves success, and stopping smoking can very cost-effectively prevent disease, tobacco treatment services are ranked as one of the highest priorities among recommended preventive services. In fact, treating tobacco dependence is more cost-effective than cholesterol screening, blood pressure screening, pap smears, and mammography.

Reducing the number of smokers in your workforce is not only good for the smokers, but will save your organization in healthcare and premium costs. The best treatment for tobacco use consists of a combination of quit medication and behavioral therapy or support. However, the challenge in providing this best treatment lies in finding a way to personalize each person’s quit plan while making support and medication convenient and available.

Picking the right program

There are 4 hallmarks to providing easily accessible individualized treatment. These are getting people the right information, the right medication and the right individualized tools and support. It’s also critical to connect with them at the right time.

To identify the right tobacco cessation provider for your workforce start by asking these questions:

Q1. How does the program ensure participants receive the right information during the intervention?

To ensure participants receive the right information to help them quit, be sure to ask if the program employs experienced tobacco treatment specialists as coaches.

Experienced tobacco treatment specialists are certified professionals who have been intensively trained in the science behind tobacco addiction, withdrawal, chronic conditions, cognitive-behavioral strategies, and pharmacotherapy. They are experts at keying in on each smoker’s unique characteristics and behavioral patterns and using that information to develop personalized treatment plans.

Also, make sure to ask the program provider for details about the qualifications and training curriculum for the coaching staff to stay current with the latest information on tobacco use treatment.

Q2. How does the program help tobacco users select and receive the right medication?

Medications, such as the patch, gum or lozenge, reduce the intensity of craving and withdrawal symptoms. Using medication can double or triple a smoker’s chances of quitting successfully.

Yet most smokers don’t understand the benefits of medications or know how to choose one and use it correctly. Ask your program partner how tobacco treatment specialists are trained to guide smokers through the maze of medication options and usage complexities.

Q3. How are the tools and support personalized to each participant?

Every participant who enrolls in a smoking cessation program comes from a different place. Some are fired up for their first try; others are feeling demoralized after numerous failed attempts or a recent relapse. An effective quit-smoking program will have the capacity to support all smokers, no matter their fears, attitudes or experiences, and will make support within easy reach of participants at all times.

Look for a program that offers different tools to tailor the quitting experience to individual needs and preferences. Many tobacco users today prefer a digital approach over talking on the phone to receive support. See if the program offers alternative ways to connect with a coach.

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Does the program provide access to an active online social community for support? Information, validation, and real-time encouragement from peers is a critical part of a successful quit plan for many smokers. And does the program offer text messaging, emails and other tailored interactive tools to give tobacco users access to help whenever they need? It should.

Q4. How does the program ensure it connects with people at the right time?

On average, smokers make at least 6 — and often more — attempts to quit before they finally succeed.

Fact is, quitting smoking, like any worthwhile endeavor, takes practice. From each failed attempt, smokers gain insight and skills that will boost their odds of success the next time around. They must know from the get-go that they have unlimited access to all aspects of the program for as long as it takes: coaching, planning tools, social support, and content.

By providing effective treatment at the right time to encourage quit attempts, a program provides participants with the support needed to quit smoking for good.

Michael V. Burke

Michael Burke. EDD, has more than 20 years of clinical experience in treating tobacco dependence. He is an accomplished educator, and has been an investigator and principle investigator on grants designed: to train tobacco treatment specialists, to educate health-care providers and community members to help people develop healthier lifestyles, and to develop distance educational models for health behavior change, and professional education. His current research focus is to develop new technologies and processes to more fully integrate tobacco treatment into health care delivery systems. He has a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology from Rutgers University, and a Master Degree in Human Service from Lincoln University. Dr. Burke is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Mayo College of Medicine and the Coordinator for the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center. He is licensed as a professional counselor and certified as a Tobacco Treatment Specialist, Wellness Coach, and Personal Trainer.

Amanda Graham

Dr. Amanda Graham holds two positions at Truth Initiative. She is senior vice president of Innovations and a research investigator at the Truth Initiative Schroeder Institute. She is also professor (adjunct) of Oncology at Georgetown University Medical Center and a member of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Under her leadership, the Innovations software development team has built suite of technology solutions including The EX Program. For the past 20 years, Graham’s NIH-funded research has focused on developing, evaluating, and optimizing technology-based smoking cessation interventions. Her work has primarily involved Internet interventions and online social networks, and she has written about the unique measurement and methodological challenges in conducting technology-based research.