Smoking as a chronic disease

Jan. 10, 2011
New York University's College of Dentistry Manhattan Tobacco Cessation Program urges doctors to help patients quit smoking and treat smoking as a chronic disease.

The Manhattan Tobacco Cessation Program (MTCP) housed at New York University’s College of Dentistry (NYUCD) recently released print and Internet ads urging health-care providers to make quitting a priority with their patients who smoke, and Dr. Donna Shelley, clinical associate professor at the NYU College of Dentistry and School of Medicine, is encouraging those same health-care providers to make a New Year’s Resolution to treat smoking as a chronic disease.

“Every year, people make positive changes in recognition of the calendar turning over,” said Dr. Shelley. “And health-care providers are in a position to significantly help smokers if they themselves will commit to a positive change — if they’ll commit to treating smoking as a chronic disease. Currently, only 54% of New York State’s physicians assist patients with smoking cessation, so there’s plenty of room for improvement. ”

The Cessation Centers’ ad — “Smoking Is A Disease” — shows a cigarette receiving an injection, and it tells health-care professionals to “Treat It!” The ad aims to drive health-care clinicians to, which houses resources to help health-care providers assist their patients who smoke.

“Smoking Is A Disease” is the third phase of the award-winning “Don’t Be Silent About Smoking” campaign, which was launched in 2008 by 19 Cessation Centers from across New York state. While most anti-smoking efforts target smokers, “Smoking Is A Disease” speaks directly to doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, and physician assistants.

“Physicians should take every opportunity to help patients quit smoking,” said Dr. Shelley. “Smoking is a chronic, relapsing condition. Smokers need their clinicians to ask them about smoking, advise them to quit, and assist them with the effective treatment. The ad is intended to remind clinicians of the responsibility they have to help their patients, and to inform physicians of the positive impact they can have on the health of smokers.” Dr. Shelley adds, “Doctors need to regard treating smokers for their tobacco use as important as treating patients for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.

Tobacco dependence is the leading preventable cause of death in New York. Approximately 25,500 New Yorkers die every year from smoking. In 2007, 60% of New York’s 2.6 million smokers attempted to quit, but most smokers try to quit without effective treatment and most will fail. Two-thirds of smokers in New York, however, have visited a health-care provider in the past year and, when health-care professionals assist their patients to quit, success rates can increase by 30%.

The “Don’t Be Silent About Smoking” Web site ( offers easy-to-access information and resources to help health-care providers effectively help their patients who smoke. The Web site also provides information on New York’s 19 Cessation Centers, whose staff provides free training to help health-care providers integrate effective treatment into their practices. The Web site provides a link to the New York State Smokers’ Quitline, where physicians can refer their patients for free nicotine replacement therapy, free coaching, and information on quitting. New York State's 19 Tobacco Cessation Centers are funded by a grant from the New York State Department of Health.

For additional information about quitting smoking, please call the toll-free NYS Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-697-8487 or visit the Smokers’ Quitsite at