Objective: To assess the effect of physician counseling and referral on smoking cessation rates and attendance at a smoking cessation program.
Methods: This was a prospective, randomized clinical trial set in a suburban, community teaching hospital emergency department (ED). During study hours, dedicated research associates enrolled consecutive, stable, oriented patients who were smokers. Eligible, consenting patients were randomized to one of two intervention groups. The control group received a two-page "Stop Smoking" pamphlet from the American Heart Association (AHA). Patients in the intervention group were given the AHA pamphlet along with pharmacologic information and standardized counseling by the attending emergency physician, including written and oral referral to a smoking cessation program. The primary outcome measures were telephone contact/attendance at the smoking cessation program by the intervention group and the rate of smoking cessation in both study groups at three months post-ED visit. Categorical data were analyzed by chi-square and Fisher's exact tests. Rank data were analyzed by Mann-Whitney tests and continuous data by t-tests. All tests were two-tailed with alpha set at 0.05.
Results: One hundred fifty-two patients were enrolled; 78 were randomized to the intervention group. Nearly 70% of patients (103) were available for telephone follow-up. The study groups were statistically similar with regard to baseline demographic characteristics and the prevalence of moderate or severe nicotine addiction. None of the patients (0%) in the intervention group contacted or attended the smoking cessation program during the study period (95% CI = 0-4%). The percentages of patients who stopped smoking after three months were similar in the two groups [10.4% (5/48) control vs 10.9% (6/55) intervention; p = 1].
Conclusion: The authors found no difference in the smoking cessation rates between ED patients who received written material and those who were counseled by emergency physicians. Referral of patients who smoked to a cessation program was unsuccessful.