August 1, 2014
This statement was developed by the Patient Education Committee of the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Division of Education. It was approved by the ACS Board of Regents at its June 2014 meeting in Chicago, IL.
Approximately one in five American adults, or about 45.3 million people living in the U.S., smoke cigarettes.1 After 50 years of steady decline in smoking prevalence, progress has stalled. Half of all smokers will die from tobacco-related illness. For every smoking-related death, another 20 individuals will suffer from a smoking-related disease. Tobacco causes one in 10 deaths globally. Worldwide, lung cancer accounts for nearly one-fifth of all cancer deaths, with 1.8 million new cases developing annually.2 Exposure to secondhand smoke also causes cancer.3 Because of these adverse consequences, smoking costs the U.S. economy at least $133 billion each year for direct medical care for adults and more than $156 billion in lost productivity.4
The impact of smoking on surgical patients is considerable. Approximately 30 percent of all patients undergoing elective general surgery procedures smoke, which means that an estimated 10 million operations are performed on smokers annually.5 Smoking within one year of surgery has been associated with increased postoperative complications, increased hospital costs, and higher resource use.5 Deleterious effects on wound healing also occur and are thought to be related to the nicotine content of conventional tobacco products as well as tobacco substitutes containing nicotine.
Smoking cessation before surgery is associated with demonstrable benefits.6 Short-term cessation results in a measurable reduction in vasoconstriction and irregular heart activity due to an immediate decrease in nicotine.7 The lack of oxygen to surgical wound sites and increased risk of blood clots are also reversed with short-term smoking cessation.8 Smoking-related impairment in wound healing and pulmonary function improve within four to eight weeks of smoking cessation.9 In addition, there is no evidence that short-term cessation is harmful perioperatively.
Few surgeons in the U.S. provide smoking cessation counseling. While smoking cessation is a core quality measure and quitting before surgery improves patient outcomes, a survey revealed that only 13 percent of general surgeons provide smoking cessation counseling, and many surgeons are unaware of optimal methods of counseling and the reimbursement provided (or available) for such counseling.10
Surgeons should play an active role in smoking cessation counseling with their patients. Surgeons are in a unique position to leverage their influence at a critical time in their patient’s life, affording an opportunity to change smoking behavior. Most smokers want to quit, and surgical patients are typically highly motivated.
The perioperative time is a critical window of opportunity to help patients realize the importance of their role in their own surgical outcomes and how smoking cessation can influence the success of their operation. Only 5 percent of smokers can quit on their own, but guideline-driven interventions can boost cessation rates to 15 percent to 25 percent.11 For example, smokers are more likely to quit when advised by a health professional, and cessation interventions as brief as three minutes can markedly increase quit rates.12
To reduce smoking-related surgical complications and smoking prevalence in general, the ACS supports the following:
Reprinted from Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons
Vol. 99, No. 8, August 2014