National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

National Tobacco Strategy 2012-2018: Draft for consultation

6.8 Provide access to a range of evidence based cessation services to support smokers to quit

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Quitting smoking at any age results in immediate health benefits, irrespective of how long a person has been smoking. Quitting at age 30 avoids almost all of the mortality hazards associated with smoking.8

Article 14 of the FCTC requires Parties to develop and disseminate comprehensive guidelines based on scientific evidence and best practices, and take effective measures to promote cessation of tobacco and adequate treatment for tobacco dependence.26

A range of cessation services are available to assist smokers who are seeking additional support to quit. These include Quitline services, on line services, specialised services and brief interventions by health professionals. These interventions complement whole of population approaches such as price increases, mass media campaigns and smoke free legislation.

While these services are an important part of a comprehensive tobacco control strategy it is important to note that the vast majority of smokers who quit, do so unaided - that is they go ‘cold turkey’.84 Surveys of smokers show that unassisted cessation continues to lead the next most successful method (NRT) by a wide margin.84

A 2009 survey of smokers revealed that three quarters of smokers (76 per cent) had gone ‘cold turkey’ when quitting, two thirds had reduced the amount smoked (66 per cent), only 44 per cent had used NRT, and slightly more than one third had changed to low tar tobacco (36 per cent).85

In 2010, those people who had never smoked (10.6 million) and those who were ex smokers (4.4 million) far exceeded the number of smokers (3.3 million) aged 14 years or older.1 The sheer number of ex smokers in our community shows that it is possible to quit smoking successfully. It is also true that the vast majority of smokers who quit do so unaided. However, quitting smoking can be a very difficult process and it is necessary to ensure that high quality evidence based services are available for those who need them.22

The benefits of quitting are felt not just by the smoker, but also by the children and other family members around them. For example, the potential harm from exposure to second-hand smoke is prevented when smokers quit, and the chances of their children starting to smoke are reduced. Most smokers quit unaided, but it usually takes between three and fourteen attempts before a regular smoker finally stops. The success of individual quit attempts can be greatly increased by the use of a variety of smoking cessation aids and services.47

Brief interventions from health professionals are also an important strategy to motivate and remind smokers of the importance of quitting. Relevant health professionals can include a doctor, nurse, Aboriginal health worker or other health professional and there is evidence of effectiveness in a range of settings including surgeries, community health centres, outpatient clinics and hospitals.86-88 Even offering brief advice (as little as three minutes) has been shown to have clear benefits, while spending more time (longer than 10 minutes) advising smokers to quit yields higher abstinence rates than minimal advice.89-91 There are benefits in broadening our approach beyond these traditional health professionals. Providing training, support and encouragement to staff in other organisations who are already working with disadvantaged groups will increase their capacity to provide brief interventions and support quit attempts.45

In 2007, there were 117,174 calls to the Quitline throughout Australia, almost all of which were related to smoking cessation.9 Quitline counselling with active call-back programs can increase quit rates fourfold to sixfold, and referrals to Quitline services from general practice can further enhance effectiveness.92