The Case for Treating Tobacco Dependence as a Chronic Disease

Evidence shows that smokers wishing to quit who utilize behavioral counseling and pharmacotherapy treatments have a greater success rate compared to those who do not receive such treatments. This article presents a case report of a smoker who has been successful at quitting only through long-term use of nicotine replacement medication.

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, yet it is still regarded by many as merely a bad habit. Most smokers want to quit but find it difficult. Behavioral counseling and pharmacotherapies are available, safe and effective in the treatment of tobacco dependence. Nicotine replacement therapy effectively delivers nicotine in safer doses without exposure to the toxins and chemicals in cigarette smoke. The optimal duration of tobacco dependence treatment is unknown and some smokers may require extended courses.

The authors suggest for smokers using long-term cessation medications, health care providers should encourage treatment and insurance carriers should cover it. Both tobacco dependence and such conditions as diabetes are similar in their potential to exacerbate other diseases, their behavioral components of treatment, and their effectiveness of medications. Despite these similarities, treatments for diabetes are well covered by insurance, whereas tobacco dependence treatments are often limited. Tobacco dependence should share the status of other chronic illnesses, with effective treatments given as long as is necessary to achieve successful clinical outcomes.