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New HHS Guide Helps Nurses Encourage Patients To Quit Smoking

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Press Release Date: May 10, 2005

In recognition of National Nurses Week, May 6-12, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today is releasing a new tool that will give nurses evidence-based information that they can use to help their patients quit smoking. The pocket guide, Helping Smokers Quit: A Guide for Nurses, was developed by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in collaboration with Tobacco Free Nurses, a national initiative funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to increase nurses' participation in tobacco control.

The free pocket guide gives nurses easy access to information based on the "5 As" approach to cessation intervention: Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist, and Arrange. It also includes a current listing of smoking cessation medications approved by HHS' Food and Drug Administration and a referral to HHS' National Quitline, 1-800-QUIT NOW.

"Nurses are an invaluable resource in health care, and they have tremendous opportunities to help patients eliminate their dependence on tobacco," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "Current evidence-based treatments for tobacco cessation offer nurses and other clinicians a great opportunity to improve health and reduce the deaths and economic burden caused by tobacco use."

Smoking causes more than 440,000 deaths each year. Approximately 70 percent of adult smokers report that they would like to quit, but only half of all smokers who see a health care professional have ever been urged to quit.

Studies have shown that the nation's 3 million nurses—the largest group of clinicians in the country—are very effective in helping people stop smoking. Because of their sheer numbers and the public trust, nurses are in a unique position to assist patients with smoking cessation, according to experts.

"This pocket guide will provide nurses with the information and tools they need to realize their potential," said Linda Sarna, R.N., D.NSc., a principal investigator with Tobacco Free Nurses and a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Nursing. "If each nurse in the U.S. helped just one person per year quit smoking, we could create a groundswell and potentially triple the current U.S. quit rate."

Partners in the Tobacco Free Nurses Initiative include the American Nurses Association/American Nurses Foundation, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations, and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at UCLA.

"The American Nurses Association is pleased to partner in this important public health campaign," said ANA President Barbara A. Blakeney, M.S., R.N. "Nurses play a vital role in educating and counseling patients about healthy lifestyles, and this new tool will support and encourage nurses to become more involved in tobacco control."

The effectiveness of nurses' participation in helping patients quit smoking has been documented in hospital data collected by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, a hospital accreditation group based in Oakbrook Terrace, IL. "While effective systems and processes help hospitals improve their performance on providing smoking cessation counseling to patients, the greatest difference between high- and low-performing hospitals is the presence of a dedicated nurse champion," said Jerod M. Loeb, Ph.D., executive vice president for research at JCAHO. "This new tool provides all nurses with a pathway to success."

The guide is available on the AHRQ Web site at For free copies of Helping Smokers Quit: A Guide for Nurses, contact AHRQ's Publication Clearinghouse at 1-(800) 358-9295 or send an E-mail to You can also visit AHRQ's Tobacco Pathfinder at For additional Web-based resources for nurses, visit Tobacco Free Nurses at

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: (301) 427-1855 or (301) 427-1857.


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