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Start treating tobacco use as an addiction, not a lifestyle choice


All smokers who see their doctors probably get a similar speech.

It's the one about how smoking is detrimental to health, how it can cause heart disease and how it can kill you.

"You should really think about quitting," a doctor will say.

Easier said than done

But health professionals in Canada argue that it's not that simple--that we treat smoking as a lifestyle choice rather than a deadly and dangerous addiction. And that it's time to change how we treat smokers.

A new textbook for medical professionals, called Disease Interrupted: Tobacco Reduction and Cessation, was created with the input from 50 health experts around the world. It's targeted toward helping doctors and health care providers understand the nature of tobacco addiction and offers steps for helping patients find a solution.

"Smoking is a bona fide chronic relapsing disease that responds well to treatment, and we have safe and effective treatment available," said Charl Els, a psychiatrist, addiction specialist and co-editor of the book. "There's no excuse to not treat. Hopefully this books starts to shift attitudes in the right direction."

Still a top killer

According to the World Health Organization, tobacco is still the top cause of preventable deaths, and it kills 5.4 million people every year. In Canada, about 20 percent of the population are smokers.

Els notes that all medical professionals--from nurses to dentists--are responsible for helping patients quit smoking, providing them with information and resources when they need it.

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

The book notes that treating tobacco addiction is a highly individual process, but that a combination of medication and counseling is the best approach.

"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 said.

Source: Medical Xpress