330. Guidelines: 2021 ESC Cardiovascular Prevention – Question #33 with Dr. Noreen Nazir

The following question refers to Section 4.5 of the 2021 ESC CV Prevention Guidelines. The question is asked by Dr. Maryam Barkhordarian, answered first by pharmacy resident Dr. Anushka Tandon, and then by expert faculty Dr. Noreen Nazir.

Dr. Nazir is Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she is the director of cardiac MRI and the preventive cardiology program.

The CardioNerds Decipher The Guidelines Series for the 2021 ESC CV Prevention Guidelines represents a collaboration with the ACC Prevention of CVD Section, the National Lipid Association, and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association.

Enjoy this Circulation 2022 Paths to Discovery article to learn about the CardioNerds story, mission, and values.

Mr. V is a 37-year-old man who presents to clinic after a recent admission for anterior STEMI and is status-post emergent percutaneous intervention to the proximal LAD. He has mixed hyperlipidemia and a 10 pack-year history of (current) tobacco smoking. Which of the following points related to tobacco use is LEAST appropriate for today’s visit?


Providing assessment and encouragement for smoking cessation, even if for only a 30-second “very brief advice” intervention.


Reviewing and offering pharmacotherapy support options for smoking cessation if Mr. V expresses readiness to quit today.


Recommending a switch from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes as a first step towards cessation, as e-cigarettes are safer for use.


Discussing that smoking cessation is strongly recommended for all patients, regardless of potential weight gain.


Answer C is LEAST appropriate and therefore is the correct answer.

Answer C is not appropriate. Although e-cigarettes may be more effective than nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) for smoking cessation, the long-term effects of e-cigarettes on cardiovascular and pulmonary health are unknown. According to the 2019 ACC/AHA prevention guidelines, e-cigarettes may increase the risk of CV and pulmonary diseases; their use has been reportedly associated with arrhythmias and hypertension. Therefore, neither the ESC nor ACC/AHA suggest clinicians recommend e-cigarettes over traditional cigarettes to patients.

Answer A: Smoking cessation is one of the most effective CVD risk-lowering preventive measures, with significant reductions in (repeat) myocardial infarctions or death. ESC guidelines emphasize the importance of encouraging smoking cessation even in settings where time is limited. “Very brief advice” on smoking is a proven 30-second clinical intervention, developed in the UK, which identifies smokers, advises them on the best method of quitting, and supports subsequent quit attempts. While ESC does not explicitly suggest a frequency of assessment, the 2019 ACC/AHA guidelines specifically recommend that “all adults should be assessed at every healthcare visit for tobacco use and their tobacco use status recorded as a vital sign to facilitate tobacco cessation.”

Answer B: The ESC suggests (class 2) that offering follow-up support, nicotine replacement therapy, varenicline, and bupropion individually or in combination should be considered in smokers. A meta-analysis of RCTs in patients with ASCVD reflects that varenicline (RR 2.6), bupropion (RR 1.4), telephone therapy (RR 1.5), and individual counselling (RR 1.6) all increased quit rates versus placebo; NRT therapies were well-tolerated but had inconclusive effects on quit rates (RR 1.22 with 95% CI 0.72-2.06). The 2019 ACC/AHA recommendation to combine behavioral and pharmacotherapy interventions to maximize quit rates is a class 1 recommendation.

Answer D: The ESC gives a class 1 recommendation to recommending smoking cessation regardless of weight grain. Smokers who quit may expect an average weight gain of 5 kg, but the health benefits of tobacco cessation (both CVD and non-CVD related) consistently outweigh risks from weight gain. Weight gain does not lessen the ASCVD benefits of cessation. The 2019 ACC/AHA guidelines do not specifically comment on weight considerations with smoking cessation.

Main Takeaway

Stopping smoking is potentially the most effective of all preventive measures. All smoking of tobacco should be stopped, as tobacco use is strongly and independently causal of ASCVD (Class 1). Smoking cessation should be regularly assessed for and encouraged, and pharmacotherapy and follow-up support for cessation should be considered for patients who are ready for a quit attempt.

Guideline Loc.

Section 4.5, Table 9

330. Guidelines: 2021 ESC Cardiovascular Prevention – Question #33 with Dr. Noreen Nazir
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