Nurse practitioners, wake up and smell the smoke

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With the focus of modern health care on preventive care, and the well-known benefits of smoking cessation on improving health and reducing healthcare costs, smoking cessation is a key focus of healthcare reform. To change the smoking habits of the U.S. population, two strategies are of particular importance to healthcare professionals: promoting tobacco-free environments in healthcare systems and expanding affordable and effective treatments.

Data sources:

Recent policy literature.


Barriers to providing smoking cessation counseling most frequently cited by healthcare professionals are lack of training and poor reimbursement; however, recent legislation, for example, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), should make preventive services more available and affordable. Nurse practitioners (NPs) have vast experience in addressing health promotion and disease prevention, and are therefore well placed to lead this reform. However, despite consistently higher referrals of tobacco-dependent patients for smoking cessation interventions than any other group of healthcare provider, evidence suggests that NPs are not adequately trained to treat this addiction.

Implications for practice:

This article is a call to action for NPs to become familiar with the tobacco cessation policy changes affecting clinical practice, to become experts in tobacco treatment, and to take the lead in this healthcare reform initiative.

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