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Smoking Cessation Advice: 5 Ways to Start a Conversation


Maybe you’ve just received your Tobacco Treatment Specialist certification and you’re eager to start giving clients smoking cessation advice. Maybe your first CTTS training was a while ago and you’re looking to remain on the cutting edge of best practice. Regardless, you probably feelc empowered, right? It’s a great feeling – one that ideally your clients will also have after working with you. Here are some tips for how to begin talks with your clients about smoking cessation that will help you pass that empowerment along to them!


1. Begin with Health Literacy

Health literacy is one’s ability to understand health-related information such as medical terminology and insurance policies. Low health literacy can even contribute to poor cessation outcomes in those of low socioeconomic status or those with minority racial/ethnic identities[1] and has been linked to higher relapse rates[2]. Talk with your clients about what they do and don’t understand regarding their health care, and help them advocate for themselves by clearing up confusion and misconceptions.


2. Watch Your Language!

This goes hand-in-hand with health literacy: clients are more likely to understand what you are communicating to them if you use plain language[3]. If you learned something nifty about smoking cessation guidelines in your CTTS training or thought of something relevant to this specific client from your tobacco cessation program and you want to share it, be sure to reframe it in a way that someone without any medical background can easily grasp.


3. Smoking Cessation Advice: Put All the Options on the Table

How up to date are you on the latest in best practices? The best smoking cessation advice will come from the most updated knowledge. There are so many forms that smoking cessation treatment can take: nicotine replacement therapy, medications, even mindfulness. Your client may not know what opportunities are available to them. Discussing a wide array of treatments can give your client hope and confidence, especially if this is not their first time attempting to quit and their previous treatment didn’t work for them.


4. Assess Motivation and Confidence

Assessing your clients’ motivation and confidence levels may inform how you go about working with them. For example, a client’s motivation and confidence may predict their inclination to continue treatment[4]. Meeting your clients where they are in terms of these factors may help improve retention and results over time – no one enjoys being shamed or scared by expectations they feel they can’t meet.

5. Just Say Hello

First and foremost, your client is a person. Before jumping into smoking cessation advice, consider taking a moment to establish rapport, being genuine and empathetic as you do so. Good rapport is about more than just making treatment easier; more than anything it demonstrates respect for your client and reassures them that you also put your pants on one leg at a time. In healthcare, it’s amazing how far a little humanity can go.



[1] Stewart, D. W., Adams, C. E., Cano, M. A., Correa-Fernández, V., Li, Y., Waters, A. J., ... & Vidrine, J. I. (2013). Associations between health literacy and established predictors of smoking cessation. American journal of public health, 103(7), e43-e49.


[2] Stewart, D. W., Cano, M. Á., Correa-Fernández, V., Spears, C. A., Li, Y., Waters, A. J., ... & Vidrine, J. I. (2014). Lower health literacy predicts smoking relapse among racially/ethnically diverse smokers with low socioeconomic status. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 716.


[3] Koh, H. K., Berwick, D. M., Clancy, C. M., Baur, C., Brach, C., Harris, L. M., & Zerhusen, E. G. (2012). New federal policy initiatives to boost health literacy can help the nation move beyond the cycle of costly ‘crisis care’. Health Affairs, 31(2), 434-443.


[4] Nahhas, G. J., Cummings, K. M., Talbot, V., Carpenter, M. J., Toll, B. A., & Warren, G. W. (2017). Who opted out of an opt-out smoking-cessation programme for hospitalised patients?. Journal of Smoking Cessation, 12(4), 199-204.