Objective: To determine the validity of self-reported in-patient smoking status data collected by admissions staff.
Method: Smoking status of new inpatients was recorded on to the computer registration screen. Urine samples collected from the patients (n = 167) were analysed for the presence of cotinine.
Results: Only 63% (95% CI 46%-81%) of the patients classified as smokers on the basis of urinary cotinine levels were recorded as smokers on the computerised record created by hospital admissions staff.
Conclusions: Admissions staff do not obtain reliable data on smoking status. However, most patients entered as non-smokers by admissions staff but registering high cotinine levels were subsequently recorded as smokers by their doctor in their medical record.
Implications: This study suggests that inpatients are more likely to report their smoking status accurately to their doctor than an admissions clerk, but about two-thirds of smokers will be correctly identified at admission and so could be targeted in computer-driven smoking-cessation interventions.