Smoking Rates Are Low, But Here’s How They Can Be Lower

March 04, 2020 by Elisa Becze BA, ELS, Editor

Although U.S. smoking rates have hit an all-time low of 14%, 34 million American adults are still considered active smokers, according to the U.S. surgeon general’s January 2020 report ( on smoking cessation. It’s the first new report focused directly on smoking cessation from the surgeon general’s office in 30 years. 

In the report, the surgeon general challenged healthcare providers to take increased responsibility for helping people quit, including just starting the conversation. Forty percent of smokers said that they did not receive healthcare professionals’ advice to quit.   

Effective strategies to support patients’ quit attempts include counseling and medication, either alone or in combination, and use of quitlines and text messaging interventions. 

Quitlines may also be able to educate patients about screening recommendations. Results of a new study ( also released in January 2020 in JAMA Network Open showed that providing a video-based patient decision aid (PDA) through tobacco quitlines helped patients understand their lung cancer screening choices, risks, and benefits and be better prepared to make decisions about screening. 

The researchers explained that future studies are needed to determine whether the decision aid affected actual screening behaviors. “We would not necessarily expect a PDA to affect screening rates because enthusiasm for cancer screening in general is high,” they wrote. “[But] our findings suggest that targeting smokers who are already motivated to quit smoking is an effective approach to increasing screening rates.” 

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