, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp 413-420
Date: 29 Aug 2010

Smoking as a Chronic Disease

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Despite remaining the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, tobacco smoking does not garner the attention it deserves in the medical and public health communities. Smoking is often referred to merely as a “bad habit” that simply requires adequate willpower to conquer effectively. Fortunately, recent attitudes regarding smoking, as illustrated by the latest US Public Health Service Clinical Practice Guidelines, call for a “chronic disease model” for treating tobacco dependence. This article underscores the importance of viewing smoking as a chronic disease by illustrating the effects on morbidity and mortality, discussing the relapsing nature of addiction, outlining the need for continuum of care for different “severities” of illness, and describing the latest research regarding effective treatment components. Tobacco dependence treatments are safe, effective, and cost-saving, and their use should be encouraged and covered by health insurance analogous to other chronic conditions.