Talking to Your Patient After a Relapse

Brought to you by

Aproximately two thirds of smokers are interested in quitting.1 Yet only 7 percent of smokers are successful,1 and many smokers try to quit several times before they’re able to maintain prolonged abstinence.It’s important to remember, and to remind your patients, that relapse is a normal and often times an unavoidable part of the process for a lifelong behavior change like quitting smoking. If relapse occurs, it does not represent failure.3

Tobacco/nicotine dependence should be treated with patience, understanding, and a realistic expectations. Keep in mind that patients can be hesitant to admit they’ve relapsed—so it’s always important to ask about their cessation progress. This video shows an example of a planned phone conversation between a doctor and patient who had recently relapsed. Watch for tips and suggestions for empathetic counseling.



1. Babb S, Malarcher A, Schauer G, Asman K, Jamal A. Quitting Smoking Among Adults — United States, 2000–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;65:1457–1464. DOI:

2. Fiore MC, Jaén CR, Baker TB, Bailey WC, Benowitz NL, Curry SJ, Dorfman SF, Froelicher ES, Goldstein MG, Froelicher ES, Healton CG, et al. Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: 2008 Update—Clinical Practice Guidelines. Rockvilleaa (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2008.P/15/para 2


Take an Assessment