Everyone knows that smoking is unhealthy, but it's a hard habit to break. Of the 40 million adults in the U.S. who smoke cigarettes, nearly 70 percent say they want to quit, and more than half have attempted to do so in the past year, according to a 2011 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But only 31.7 percent have tried smoking-cessation counseling and/or medications, which can double to triple quitting success rates.
That's why the UC healthcare system has launched UC Quits, an anti-smoking program designed to help patients get the resources they need to overcome the deadly addiction.
How it works
Physicians and student doctors understand the dangers of smoking better than anyone. But simply telling patients about the chronic illnesses caused and exacerbated by smoking — cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, for instance — isn't enough to help most people give it up.
UC Quits gives UCLA care providers a more effective way to aid the smoking-cessation process by connecting UC healthcare centers with the UCSD-based California Smoker's Helpline, creating a shared network of information and resources.
Started in 2013 by UC Davis' Dr. Elisa Tong and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, UC Quits now extends to UCLA and other UC campuses with major healthcare systems.
Smokers who visit one of these medical centers receive an electronic referral to the helpline, which offers free counseling and strategy planning. The referring care providers then receive updated information on the status of their patients' attempts to quit, enabling them to actively participate in the smoking-cessation process.
The two-way referral system is the first of its kind for an anti-smoking program. According to the UC Quits website, this system nearly doubles the chance of quitting.
As of November 2015, UC Quits had referred 2,716 patients to the helpline.
Smoking-cessation for medical students
Patients aren't the only ones who need help quitting. Even doctors and medical students themselves have struggled with the addiction.
In 2013, UCLA became the first smoke-free UC campus and began offering free nicotine patches and smoking-cessation counseling to students.
So far, UC Quits has not been introduced at UC Student Health Centers, according to Deborah Pino-Saballett, the UCSD Student Health Center's Director of Health Promotion. She explains, "UC Quits is primarily a resource for providers working in a hospital and medical center setting."
However, she notes that students with smoking habits who visit their health center can be referred to a health educator to discuss similar quitting strategies.
By Taylor Mallory Holland