Counseling smoking parents of young children: comparison of pediatricians and family physicians

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001 Jan;155(1):25-31. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.155.1.25.


Background: Secondhand smoke is a major cause of morbidity in young children, and exposure to smoking parents is the principal source. Physician visits for young children present an opportunity to effect behavioral change among smoking parents.

Objective: To survey pediatricians and family physicians in their knowledge and practice of smoking cessation counseling with parents.

Design: Cross-sectional mail survey.

Setting: Urban California.

Participants: Pediatricians and family physicians in urban areas of California, younger than 65 years, practicing in an ambulatory setting, and randomly selected from the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile.

Main outcome measures: Reported frequency of asking about tobacco use, using cessation counseling techniques with smokers, and perceived barriers to providing cessation services.

Results: Of the 1000 mailed surveys, 899 were eligible and 499 (56% response rate) were returned and completed. A higher proportion of pediatricians compared with family physicians were women (44% vs 29%; P<.01) and nonwhite (44% vs 32%; P =.01). Family physicians compared with pediatricians were more likely to report referring a parent to a smoking cessation program (41% vs 30%), giving pamphlets on smoking cessation (40% vs 28%), asking for a quit date (41% vs 18%), scheduling a follow-up visit to discuss quitting (27% vs 5%), and recommending nicotine replacement therapy (41% vs 13%) (for each comparison, P<.001). Pediatricians were more likely to report recording in the medical record smoking by a parent as a problem for the child (65% vs 48%; P<.001), but a higher proportion of pediatricians perceived that parents would ignore the advice (39% vs 24%; P<.001) and lacked interest in quitting smoking (45% vs 27%; P<.001). Pediatricians were more likely to agree that they lacked smoking cessation counseling skills (26% vs 7%; P<.001). Multivariate models showed that pediatricians were less likely to report performing 5 of 14 smoking cessation techniques in at least 50% of smoking parents.

Conclusions: Pediatricians appear to lack training to implement smoking cessation counseling with smoking parents. Physicians in private practice are less likely to counsel smoking parents. Educational interventions for pediatricians are needed to decrease secondhand smoke exposure for young children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • California
  • Child
  • Child Welfare
  • Counseling / education
  • Counseling / methods
  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Practice / education
  • Family Practice / methods
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Services Accessibility / standards
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parents / education*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Pediatrics / education
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physicians, Family / education
  • Physicians, Family / psychology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Referral and Consultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution