Objective: to determine whether the age and medical condition of a patient influences hospital-based doctors' decision making when advising patients to stop smoking cigarettes.
Methods: we presented 142 doctors from four grades (consultant, registrar, senior house officer and house officer) and four specialities (medicine, surgery, psychiatry and anaesthetics), based in a Dublin teaching hospital, with 20 clinical vignettes. Each vignette described a patient from one of five age groups with one of four levels of health. The vignettes were randomly mixed. We asked doctors to say whether they would advise the patient in each case to quit smoking.
Results: hospital-based doctors are significantly less likely to advise patients aged over 65 years than younger patients of the hazards of cigarette smoking, irrespective of the person's physical or mental health (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: the advice given to patients about their cigarette smoking habits by hospital doctors is strongly influenced not only by the patient's health, but also by the patient's chronological age.