The ECC is conducting a reflection on standards of care for people living with COPD and recommends as a first course of action to quit smoking. Easier said than done: although there is a large panel of solutions available, and no “one size fits all” answer, it remains very difficult to find the appropriate means to stop the deadly habit.
Yet, when one lives with COPD, the best thing one can do to improve one’s health is quit, as:
- Within 72 hours: blood pressure decreases, pulse are drops, the risk of a heart attack decreases and the ability to small and taste increases,
- within a couple of weeks: lung function increases, circulation improves and walking becomes easier,
- within a year: shortness of breath and fatigue improves, coughing decreases and the excessive risk of coronary heart disease becomes half that of a smoker,
- within five years: the risk of having a stroke and the risk of coronary heart disease is reduced to that of a never smoker. The risk of lung cancer is half that of a continuing smoker (1).
Smokers must be encouraged and should be helped to quit the habit, for a better outcome of their decision to stop smoking, taking into account that those with COPD experience high levels of depression and anxiety, making it more difficult to comply with treatment and quitting smoking.
What works best to help patients with COPD quit smoking is treatment for their depression, in addition to information about and availability of the most effective ways to quit, including cessation medications approved by the national health authority, empathetic counseling, motivational interviewing, and ongoing support from professionals, family and friends.
Public and governmental policies also help when they:
- reduce availability of tobacco products: 1/set an age limit for the purchase of tobacco products which should 2/not be displayed over the counter, but under;
- raise the cost of a tobacco products (with taxation mechanisms),
- increase size of health warnings on tobacco packs, or adopt “plain packaging” (no brand logo, no marketing on the pack),
- decrease exposure to smoke: with the implementation of smoking bans in public and in indoor work places,
- lessen the temptation to smoke with bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (2)
The European Union, despire the fact that it does not have competency in the field of healthcare provision, must play an indirect role in this field; here are some examples of EU positive actions:
- when assessing member states health systems performance, it must take into account the availability of supports to quit smoking in healthcare programmes, as this has an important secondary impact on the sustainability of the health system,
- it must promote successful measures among member states,
- when issuing economic country recommendations (3), it should not encourage cutting costs in health and social services that help smokers quit,
- when funding agricultural programmes, it should not subsidized tobacco growing or, it should help the growers shift to another source of income.
Let’s make sure both national governments and the European Union help people living with COPD get adequate support and help.
(1) Source: IPCRG, Helping patients quit smoking: brief interventions for healthcare professionals
(2) Source: WHO, “mpower”
(3) Europe 2020, European Semester, Country Specific Recommedendations