Preventive care in the emergency department: diagnosis and management of smoking and smoking-related illness in the emergency department: a systematic review

Acad Emerg Med. 2002 Jul;9(7):720-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2002.tb02153.x.


Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States. The efficacy of emergency department (ED)-based patient screening and counseling for smoking cessation is not currently known.

Objectives: To perform a structured, systematic review of the medical literature to assess the efficacy of limited screening and counseling for tobacco use cessation among adults in the primary care and ED settings, and develop recommendations for emergency physicians based on these data.

Methods: A two-person template-driven review of all English-language articles from Medline, the Cochrane Database, and two recent smoking cessation guidelines, with evidence graded according to the scheme of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), was performed. Recommendations were developed, and strength graded, based on this evidence.

Results: Of 2,078 citations reviewed, 16 were selected for inclusion, based on their methodologic strength and relevance to emergency medicine. Routine physician screening and counseling may increase quit rates at 6-12 months from 3% (usual care) to 8-11%. Interventions include brief counseling (<3 minutes), possibly supplemented with self-help literature, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and follow-up telephone calls.

Conclusions: Strong evidence exists, in the primary care setting, that smoking cessation screening and counseling are effective. Limited data exist for ED-based practice, but, based on the burden of disease, relative ease of intervention, and likely efficacy, routine screening of all patients for tobacco use and referral of smokers to primary care and cessation programs are recommended.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / therapy*
  • Smoking Cessation*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / diagnosis
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / prevention & control*
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome