Over 440,000 deaths each year in the U.S. are attributable to tobacco use, and another 50,000 deaths are caused by secondhand smoke exposure. Approximately 20% of Veterans in our region use tobacco, and it is estimated that 70% of these individuals want to quit. This makes helping Veterans kick the habit “one of the most important responsibilities that I have at the VA,” says Shannon M. Huebert, Ph.D., Health Behavior Coordinator.
What is the VA Smoking Cessation Program?
The Kansas City VA Quit Tobacco Clinic consists of weekly group appointments on Tuesdays from 10-11:30 a.m. The first hour is led by a psychologist, who employs motivational interviewing techniques to help participants devise personalized plans to increase their motivation to quit tobacco, reduce their nicotine addiction, learn how to cope with urges and get support from others. The second portion of the class is led by a pharmacist, who provides information about the medications available to assist in patients’ quit attempts. How many veterans does the VA smoking cessation program serve each year? Our clinic serves approximately 250 veterans each year.
Is quitting “cold turkey” an effective method?
The research suggests that while the majority of smokers quit cold turkey, individuals who are “trying” to quit who use this method are not likely to be successful. Is medicine used to help veterans quit smoking? At the end of the clinic, the pharmacist meets individually with Veterans who are interested in a personal evaluation for medications, and if appropriate, the medications are ordered and available for pickup the same day in the hospital pharmacy.
How does coaching make a difference?
Brief interventions (3-5 minutes) and more intense interventions (more than 10 minutes) have been found to be effective in increasing quit rates. Cessation counseling lasting 4-30 minutes can double a patient’s chance of abstinence, whereas counseling lasting 30 minutes or greater can triple these rates. For this reason, the VA encourages all staff to have crucial conversations with Veterans about quitting tobacco. During these conversations, VA staff employ the Five A’s: Ask about smoking, Advise the patient to quit, Assess their readiness to quit, Assist patients with their quit attempt and Arrange for follow-up encounters.
How do you track each veteran’s progress?
Because the Quit Tobacco Clinic provides an evidence-based intervention, individual quit rates are not tracked. The quit rates with medication alone are as follows:
Nicotine patch 23%; Varenicline 33%; nicotine patch + nicotine gum 37%; nicotine patch + bupropion 29%. The research suggests that if a Veteran participates in a clinic such as the one we provide and uses a combination of medications, the quit rate can exceed the quit rates with medications alone.
How do veterans register for the program?
The Quit Tobacco Clinic is a drop-in clinic. No prior registration or appointment is required. The clinic is open to all veterans and their significant others. For more information about the Quit
Tobacco Clinic, contact Dr. Shannon
Huebert at 816-861-4700 Ext. 52616.
Shannon M. Huebert, Ph.D.,
Health Behavior Coordinator,
Kansas City VA Medical Center