Ask Advise Refer (AAR)
The “Ask, Advise, and Refer” protocol is a brief intervention for health care providers in promoting tobacco cessation with their patients.5 The protocol can be incorporated into the medical office or clinic routine as follows:
Step 1: Ask. While collecting vital signs, a nurse or medical assistant can ask the patient whether he or she smokes or uses other forms of tobacco and can then document the patient's tobacco use status in the chart or electronic health record. Framing the question in a multiple-choice format may increase the likelihood of disclosure among patients hesitant to report their smoking status. In addition, the use of a vital sign stamp or an electronic prompt, or placing a sticker on the chart may be helpful in making tobacco-use screening a regular part of one’s practice.
Step 2: Advise. Smokers often report that their clinician’s advice and encouragement is an important motivator to stop smoking. Evidence shows that cessation rates increase when clinicians advise their patients to stop using tobacco. Advice should be clear and strong, for example, “As your physician and someone who cares about you and your health, I would encourage you to stop smoking because it is the most important thing you can do to protect your health.” This advice works best when delivered in a non-judgmental tone and is personalized where possible, such as, linking the advice to the reason for the patient's visit.
After advising and offering encouragement, providers should ask the patient if he or she is interested in quitting. For those who are interested, clinicians can provide brief counseling (e.g., encourage the patient to set a quitting date and remove all tobacco products from the home; discuss some of the challenges the patient may face, such as stress and weight gain; and how to overcome these challenges). Providers who do not have the time or expertise to provide this counseling can refer the patient to the California Smokers' Helpline and should then continue to offer encouragement and support at future encounters with the patient.
Step 3: Refer. For patients who are interested in trying to quit, referrals can be made to the California Smokers’ Helpline for counseling and other behavioral support services. The Helpline services are free of charge and can be accessed by directing patients to call 1-800-NO-BUTTS or to visit www.nobutts.org. The Helpline provides self-help materials and up to six counseling sessions with a trained counselor. Counseling is provided in English, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese, and TDD for the hearing and speech impaired. Services are also available for pregnant women, teens, and those who chew tobacco. Other free tools include online help for tobacco users and their family and friends, a text messaging program, and No Butts, a new mobile app that helps smokers quit (www.nobutts.org/free-services-for-smokers-trying-to-quit).