Journal of Smoking Cessation


New terminology for the treatment of tobacco dependence: a proposal for debate

Fred Wolffa1 c1, John R. Hughesa2 and Susan S. Woodsa3

a1 Tobacco Treatment Specialist, MaineHealth Center for Tobacco Independence Portland, Maine, USA

a2 Departments of Psychiatry, Psychology and Family Practice, University of Vermont, USA

a3 Portland Veterans Administration Medical Center, Portland, Oregon, USA

Tobacco dependence is characterised as a chronic, relapsing disorder that typically requires multiple quit attempts before successful, long-term abstinence is achieved (Steinberg, Foulds, Richardson, Burke, & Shah, 2006). Best practice, evidence-based treatment includes multiple-session counselling and pharmacotherapy, or the combination of both (Fiore et al., 2008). The field has moved past the notion that tobacco dependence is simply a bad habit, a vice, or a moral deficiency that can be overcome by willpower or education alone (Mars & Ling, 2008). However, the language used in discussing treatment has not always been consistent with this evidence. Some words and phrases used lend themselves to varied meanings, and could lead to significant misunderstanding not only among professionals in the field, but also among the general public (O'Brien, 2010; Davis, 1992; Perkins, 1999; Hughes, 2013). In this paper, we discuss some commonly used, problematic terminology, and suggest more appropriate terms (Table 1).


c1 Address for correspondence: Fred Wolff, MaineHealth Center for Tobacco Independence, 110 Free Street, Portland, Me. 04101 207-662-7134 E-mail: