Patients who got less than five minutes of counseling from a nurse and free nicotine patches at least three weeks before surgery were much more likely to quit, according to researchers at the University of Western Ontario. Those patients also got a brochure and a referral to a quit-smoking hotline. Before surgery, 14 percent of the 84 patients at St. Joseph's Hospital in London, Ontario, who were given help managed to quit, compared with about 4 percent of the 84 patients who got none. A month after surgery, 29 percent of the patients given help said they had stopped smoking, compared with 11 percent in the other group. The group that got help also did better at cutting back, even if they didn't quit.