Treating tobacco addiction a 'duty,' argue text editors

by Bryan Alary
UAlberta researchers are helping Canadian smokers quit with a new textbook designed to give health professionals the tools to treat tobacco addiction. Credit: John Ulan

Researchers from the University of Alberta are helping Canadian smokers butt out with a new textbook designed to give health professionals the right tools to treat tobacco addiction.

Disease Interrupted: Tobacco Reduction and Cessation is written for health professionals to help smokers quit and contains the country's first clinical guidelines on treating .

Co-editor Charl Els, a , addiction specialist and associate clinical professor in the Faculty of & Dentistry, says in some parts of the country, health professionals view smoking as a lifestyle choice and are resistant to treating tobacco use as an addiction. That leaves smokers to quit on their own, with far less success.

"Smoking is a bona fide chronic relapsing disease that responds well to treatment, and we have safe and effective treatment available. There's no excuse to not treat," says Els. "Hopefully this books starts to shift attitudes in the right direction."

Disease Interrupted contains input from 50 health professionals from around the world, making it a "who's who of tobacco ," says Els, who self-published the book with co-editor Diane Kunyk, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Nursing, and Peter Selby of the University of Toronto.

Health-care professionals are the primary audience, says Kunyk, noting the duty to treat includes family physicians, nurses, dentists and others. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease worldwide—killing 5.4 million every year.

"Tobacco use is such a prevalent condition—20 per cent of the Canadian population smoke—responsibility for treatment can't be limited to one group," she says.

Disease Interrupted was funded in part by Health Canada, which Els argues makes it free of bias associated with texts funded by the pharmaceutical industry—books he says are designed to sell drugs. Treating tobacco addiction is highly individualized, he adds, and guidelines suggest a treatment combination of counselling and medication.

"Just like any chronic disease, it takes time to be under control and stay under control. People succeed all the time."

Support for New Year's resolutions

With the new year approaching, now is a time many smokers start thinking about quitting. Seventy per cent of want to quit, Els says, and one useful tool is support from family, friends and .

"Bottom line is, tell them, 'I'm worried about your health, this is the best thing you can do for your health, now let's make it happen,'" Els says. "That really is the best way to engage people, as opposed to simply negative consequences of smoking. Most people are aware of those."

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