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Tobacco Cessation Interventions

Tobacco cessation counseling inventions help patients work on the "habit" component of their nicotine addiction and increases their chance of tobacco abstinence. Any health care provider or smoking quitline counselor can provide counseling either in person or over the telephone, individually or as part of a group.

Research shows a patient has the greatest chance of successfully quitting when they receive both counseling and smoking cessation pharmacotherapy.

Components of tobacco cessation counseling

VA provides tobacco cessation counseling to Veterans through face-to-face encounters, both individually and in groups, and in telephone settings. The counseling can be brief in duration (<5 minutes) or more intensive (>40 minutes) and involve multiple sessions.

Tobacco cessation counseling offered by physicians as well as non-physician clinicians is effective. Increasing the length of a counseling session and the number of sessions increases abstinence rates.

In general, counseling focuses on patient-provider exchanges that involve:

  • Asking patients if they use tobacco products
  • Advising patients who use tobacco to quit
  • Assessing a patient's desire to quit tobacco
  • Assisting patients with their quit attempt by working with them to:
    • Set a target quit date
    • Tell their family and friends of their intention to quit
    • Anticipate and plan for challenges
    • Remove all tobacco products from their environment
    • Use smoking cessation pharmacotherapy when appropriate
    • Receive more intensive counseling
  • Arranging follow-up sessions that take place in person or over the telephone

Telephone counseling through quitline services is effective at helping people quit smoking. 1-855-QUIT-VET is a free quitline for Veterans receiving their health care from VA. Learn more about the quitline and other patient tools.

Tools and publications

More tools and publications »


  • Fiore, M. C., Jaén, C. R., Baker, T. B., Bailey, W. C., Benowitz, N. L., Curry, S. J., Dorfman, S. F., Froelicher, E. S., Goldstein, M. G., Healton, C. G., Henderson, P. Nez, Heyman, R. B., Koh, H. K., Kottke, T. E., Lando, H. A., Mecklenburg, R. E., Mermelstein, R. J., Mullen, P. D., Orleans, C. Tracy, Robinson, L., Stitzer, M. L., Tommasello, A. C., Villejo, L., & Wewers, M. E. (2008, May). Treating tobacco use and dependence: 2008 update. Clinical practice guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.