Helping Smokers Quit

A Guide for Clinicians


Ask about tobacco use at every visit.

Implement a system in your clinic that ensures that tobacco-use status is obtained and recorded at every patient visit.

Vital Signs

Blood Pressure: __________________________________________

Pulse: __________________   Weight: __________________

Temperature: ____________________________________________

Respiratory Rate: ________________________________________

Tobacco Use:        Current        Former        Never        (circle one)


Advise all tobacco users to quit.

Use clear, strong, and personalized language. For example:

"Quitting tobacco is the most important thing you can do to protect your health."


Assess readiness to quit.

Ask every tobacco user if he/she is willing to quit at this time.

  • If willing to quit, provide resources and assistance (go to Assist section).
  • If unwilling to quit at this time, help motivate the patient:
    • Identify reasons to quit in a supportive manner.
    • Build patient's confidence about quitting.


Assist tobacco users with a quit plan.

Assist the smoker to:

  • Set a quit date, ideally within 2 weeks.
  • Remove tobacco products from their environment.
  • Get support from family, friends, and coworkers.
  • Review past quit attempts—what helped, what led to relapse.
  • Anticipate challenges, particularly during the critical first few weeks, including nicotine withdrawal.
  • Identify reasons for quitting and benefits of quitting.

Give advice on successful quitting:

  • Total abstinence is essential—not even a single puff.
  • Drinking alcohol is strongly associated with relapse.
  • Allowing others to smoke in the household hinders successful quitting.


Encourage use of medication:

  • Recommend use of over-the-counter nicotine patch, gum, or lozenge; or give prescription for varenicline, bupropion SR, nicotine inhaler, or nasal spray, unless contraindicated.

Select for Suggestions for the Clinical Use of Medications for Tobacco Dependence Treatment.

Provide resources:

  • Recommend toll free 1-800-QUIT NOW (784-8669), the national access number to State-based quitline services.

Refer to Web sites for free materials:


Arrange followup visits.

Schedule followup visits to review progress toward quitting.

If a relapse occurs, encourage repeat quit attempt.

  • Review circumstances that caused relapse. Use relapse as a learning experience.
  • Review medication use and problems.
  • Refer to 1-800-QUIT NOW (784-8669).

For more information on prescribing, precautions, and side effects, go to the Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guideline, Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update,

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Public Health Service

Page last reviewed October 2014
Page originally created May 2008
Internet Citation: Helping Smokers Quit. Content last reviewed October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.
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