Study Concludes “Motivational Interviewing” is an Effective Way to Treat Those with Smoking Addiction


The good news is that smoking rates have diminished over the past few decades, due to an increase in health information available to the public (not to mention an increase in price). Unfortunately, however, many parents (upwards of 17 million in the United States alone) still expose their innocent children to the effects of second-hand smoke each day. Since this has been shown to impact the respiratory health in children, those who already have an ailment, such as asthma, are at a particular risk.

Belinda Borrelli

Belinda Borrelli, a professor of health policy and health services research at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, wants to help people stop smoking, focusing on those who are not highly motivated to begin with and have the fewest resources and support available. Photo by Cydney Scott

Belinda Borrelli, a clinical psychologist and professor of health policy and health services research at Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, conducted a study recently that used “motivational interviewing” as a means to help smokers- particularly those who have children with asthma- to quit.

This client-centered, non-confrontational method was tested on smokers who weren’t necessarily ready to quit, as with most studies, rather they were recruited from hospitals after their kids had been treated for exacerbations from their asthma symptoms. Borelli found that oftentimes these parents didn’t understand that there was a connection between their smoking and their children’s health. “We were using asthma education as a foot in the door to reach people who would not normally seek smoking cessation,” Borelli says.

The first step is for a counselor to meet with the smoker and have him or her blow into a carbon monoxide monitor to show how what they’re emitting is the same as what is purged from an automobile’s tailpipe. The effects of this are discussed: difficulty running around, climbing stairs, playing with the kids, their children’s health. Next comes the positive look into the future. “We tell them, ‘Two weeks to three months after quitting, your breathing becomes better, your circulation improves.’”

The study proves the fact that a magic pill is an unnecessary and often ineffective form of treatment. With the use of motivational interviewing, it becomes likely that parents of children with asthma will subscribe to health changes, including smoking cessation.