Smoking status as a vital sign

J Gen Intern Med. 1999 Jul;14(7):402-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1999.09078.x.


Objective: We conducted this study to determine if a smoking status stamp would prompt physicians to increase the number of times they ask, advise, assist, and arrange follow-up for African-American patients about smoking-related issues.

Design: An intervention study with a posttest assessment (after the physician visit) conducted over four 1-month blocks. The control period was the first 2 weeks of each month, while the following 2 weeks served as the intervention period.

Setting: An adult walk-in clinic in a large inner-city hospital.

Participants: We consecutively enrolled into the study 2,595 African-American patients (1,229 intervention and 1, 366 control subjects) seen by a housestaff physician.

Interventions: A smoking status stamp placed on clinic charts during the intervention period.

Main results: Forty-five housestaff rotated through the clinic in 1-month blocks. In univariate analyses, patients were significantly more likely to be asked by their physicians if they smoke cigarettes during the intervention compared with the control period, 78.4% versus 45.6% (odds ratio [OR] 4.28; 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.58, 5.10). Patients were also more likely to be told by their physician to quit, 39.9% versus 26.9% (OR 1.81; 95% CI 1.36, 2.40), and have follow-up arranged, 12.3% versus 6.2% (OR 2.16; 95% CI 1.30, 3.38).

Conclusions: The stamp had a significant effect on increasing rates of asking about cigarette smoking, telling patients to quit, and arranging follow-up for smoking cessation. However, the stamp did not improve the low rate at which physicians offered patients specific advice on how to quit or in setting a quit date.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Black or African American*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • Urban Population