Background: As many as 50% of older smokers develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and more than 80% of COPD-associated morbidity is caused by tobacco smoking. Despite the severe symptoms from which COPD patients suffer, they are often unable to quit smoking on their own.
Methods: Experts from 9 medical societies, under the aegis of the German Society of Pulmonology and Respiratory Medicine (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pneumologie und Beatmungsmedizin), have developed an S3 guideline on smoking cessation in COPD. They took previously published guidelines into account, as well as more than 2000 initially surveyed publications, and created the new guideline in two consensus conferences followed by a Delphi process.
Results: The following strongly evidence-based statements can be made: A smoking cessation strategy based on a combination of medication and psychosocial support has been found to be effective in COPD patients. Smoking cessation improves pulmonary function, alleviates dyspnea and cough, reduces the frequency of COPD exacerbations, and lowers mortality. Mere smoking reduction does not improve pulmonary function or alleviate symptoms. Smoking cessation is the most effective and least expensive single means of lowering the risk of developing COPD and of arresting its progression. Smoking cessation should therefore be strongly promoted at all levels of health care delivery.
Conclusions: There is no question that smoking cessation ranks among the most effective medical interventions, yet the German health care system still does not assign it an adequate priority.
Keywords: addiction; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; evidence-based medicine; nicotine withdrawal; smoking.