Very brief advice

Very brief advice (VBA) is an evidence-based approach to increasing quit attempts. The purpose of VBA is to engage with people who smoke and get them to think about quitting. The aim is not to tell people how they should behave (quit smoking), but to guide them to the quit support that is available. VBA focuses on offering help by providing:

  • information about where to go for help to quit
  • encouragement and support for change
  • a referral to quit support.

VBA is an opportunistic, non-intrusive and respectful approach which can be used by anyone, in any setting, including community settings. VBA is not smoking cessation therapy and does not require formal counselling skills or knowledge of the stages of behaviour change because:

  • assessing clinical factors such as how much the person smokes or their level of addiction is not important because there is no safe level of smoking
  • evaluating stage of behaviour change is not important because most people who smoke know it is bad for them, want to stop, and have probably tried to quit already.

In simple terms VBA is a short conversation lasting from 30 seconds to a couple of minutes during which you:

  • Ask the person if they smoke
  • Advise them about the best way to quit (behavioural support (e.g. Quitline) combined with stop smoking medication like NRT)
  • Act by directing them to locally available support (provide information or referral).

Because of the opportunistic non-clinical nature of VBA, anyone who has contact with people who smoke from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities should be able to provide this including:

  • staff from health organisations, who are the first point of contact for clients (e.g., receptionists and drivers)
  • staff from non-health organisations that have regular contact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients
  • smoke-free ambassadors or other volunteers who work on community events/outreach activities.

According to a review of the evidence, brief simple advice about quitting smoking increases the likelihood that someone who smokes will successfully quit and remain smoke-free 12 months later.

VBA is a modification of the 5As (Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist, Arrange) approach to brief intervention which is often recommended for use in a clinical setting. You can read more about this clinical approach on the fact sheet: Key facts about behavioural support for smoking cessation.