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Helping patients lift the barriers to behaviour change

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There are about 10 million smokers in Great Britain; this is about one sixth of the total UK population.1 Smoking causes more preventable deaths than anything else - nearly 80,000 in England during 2011.

More than a third of all smokers make at least one attempt to stop in a given year but only about 4.8 per cent of smokers succeeded long term in 2010.2

It is not clear why some attempts to stop succeed and others do not, though smoking fewer cigarettes per day, not needing to smoke first thing in the morning and not suffering from mental health problems or other addictions are factors favouring success. Research suggests approximately 70 per cent of smokers want to stop.3,4

This article focuses on the behavioural and pharmacological techniques nurses can use to facilitate a change in behaviour and help patients maintain that change over time, helping them give up succesfully. The common barriers encountered in helping patient's change their behaviour and how to counter them are also discussed.

Barriers to behaviour change

Many factors that make it difficult to stop smoking include:

Pharmacological dependence on nicotine. Cigarettes are addictive because a high dose of nicotine is rapidly delivered to the brain and stimulates its 'reward centre'.5

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