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The science of stopping smoking

On Thursday, March 8, CHÉOS Scientist Dr. Iris Torchalla spoke about “The Science of Stopping Smoking” at the Heart + Lung Scientific Symposium, a two-day event as part of an annual conference organized by The Institute for Heart + Lung Health.

Dr. Torchalla discussed both the physiological and psychological aspects of tobacco dependence, as well as the current clinical practice guidelines for brief (five twenty-minute) interventions for addressing tobacco use and dependence in daily practice.

These interventions include counseling strategies for when time is limited, and information related to pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation. Dr. Torchalla also discussed the current evidence base for counseling and pharmacotherapy.

“These are the hungry nicotine receptors, and they cry, ‘feed me,’” Dr. Torchalla said, displaying an illustration of nicotine uptake in a synapse in order to illustrate the neurology of withdrawal symptoms as a result of smoking cessation.

In addition, she discussed two specific counselling strategies: five A’s for smokers willing to quit, and five R’s for smokers not willing to quit:

  • Ask (about smoking habits)
  • Advise (the individual to quit)
  • Assess (the individual’s willingness to quit)
  • Assist (the individual in quitting)
  • Arrange (a follow-up interview)
  • Relevance (of quitting smoking)
  • Risks (of tobacco use)
  • Rewards (of stopping smoking)
  • Roadblocks (identify barriers to quitting)
  • Repeat (this information every visit)

She also discussed the pros of using Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) as a form of treatment. NRT, which uses treatments such as the nicotine patch, was just one example of pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation. Dr. Torchalla also talked about varenicline and bupropion as other options for NRT.

Dr. Torchalla graduated as a Clinical Psychologist from the University of Tuebingen, Germany. She explored smoker subgroups at a differential risk for post-intervention relapse in her dissertation. Subsequently, she was involved in the development of a smoking cessation therapy manual that is tailored to meet the needs of the aforementioned at-risk groups. At CHÉOS, Dr. Torchalla is engaged in research involving trauma, substance abuse, and mental health among vulnerable urban populations.

Health Fest 2012 took place from March 6 to 10 at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Hotel. It featured internationally recognized experts and talented local scientists working on cutting-edge research in the field of heart and lung health.

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Health research in the heart of Vancouver