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Having a conversation

Evidence shows that brief, smoking cessation interventions work. It is important to take every opportunity to identify smokers, document their smoking status, and offer treatment and support.

In as little as three minutes, a brief assessment and advice to quit smoking can act as a prompt to attempt quitting, which has a measurable effect on quit rates.1 Research shows that the cost per year of life saved by smoking cessation interventions makes it one of the most cost-effective healthcare interventions.2

Don’t underestimate the positive impact you can have on your patient’s smoking behaviours. Clinicians are ideally placed to motivate and support people to quit smoking.

Starting a conversation

Information is available to assist health professionals to engage patients in smoking cessation conversations:

  • Online training is available to support clinicians to undertake a brief intervention with patients around the issue of smoking cessation and healthy lifestyle.
  • Start the Conversation – developed by Alfred Health, with the support of the Victorian Department of Health, challenges health professionals to raise the topic of smoking with their patients. Real patients and clinicians share their experiences about the life-changing conversations that resulted in people quitting smoking.
  • Smoking and mental illness: A guide for health professionals developed by the Department of Health and Ageing, in partnership with SANE Australia, provides information for health professionals to support patients with a mental illness to quit smoking.

It’s all about how you phrase the conversation. Never should it seem like you are lecturing or imparting judgment during an intervention. Your casualness, empathy and understanding will all play a part in the smoker internalising your message.

Tips for your conversation:

Review the various nicotine replacement options

There are a wide variety of options out there available for smokers. It pays to familiarise yourself with all the relevant products and tailor recommendations based on the smoker’s individual situation.

Refer patients to Quitline for further support

Quitline (13 7848) is a service for smokers who are thinking of, or currently in the process of quitting. It provides expert advice via phone support and offers a range of programs to assist smokers with cessation based on their needs.


[1] Zwar N, Bell J, Peters M, Christie M, Mendelsohn C. Nicotine and nicotine replacement therapy – the facts. Aust Pharmacist. 2006 Dec; 25(12): 969973.
[2] Cohen JT, Neumann PJ, Weinstein MC. Does preventive care save money? Health economics and the presidential candidates. NEngl J Med 2008;358,6613.
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