Primary care provider attitudes are associated with smoking cessation counseling and referral

Med Care. 2005 Sep;43(9):929-34. doi: 10.1097/


Objective: Most primary care providers (PCPs) endorse the importance of smoking cessation, but counseling rates are low. We evaluated the consistency of PCP's attitudes toward smoking cessation counseling and corresponding smoking-cessation behaviors.

Design: This was a postintervention analysis of a population-based sample from a group randomized controlled trial to improve adherence to smoking cessation guidelines.

Setting: A total of 18 VA sites in Southwestern and Western United States participated.

Participants: A total of 280 PCPs completed a survey at 12 months after the implementation of a smoking-cessation quality improvement (QI) program. Their patients also completed 12- (n = 1080) and 18-month (n = 924) follow-up surveys.

Intervention: The quality improvement intervention included local priority setting, quality improvement plan development, implementation, and monitoring.

Measurements and main results: PCPs at intervention sites were more likely to report counseling patients about smoking cessation (P = 0.04) but not referral. PCP attitude toward smoking-cessation counseling was strongly associated with reported counseling (P < 0.001) and with referral (P = 0.01). Other associations with counseling were the perceived barrier "patients are not interested in quitting" (P = 0.01) and fewer years in practice (P = 0.03); other associations with referral were specialty consultation (P < 0.0001) and the perceived barrier "referral not convenient" (P = 0.001) (negative association). PCP attitudes were associated with higher rates of counseling, referral, and program attendance.

Conclusions: PCPs, regardless of intervention participation, had attitudes consistent with their reported smoking-cessation behaviors and more favorable attitudes were associated with higher rates of patient-reported smoking cessation behavior. Findings suggest that PCPs who endorse smoking-cessation counseling and referral may provide more treatment recommendations and have higher patient quit rates.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Practice / standards
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic / standards
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Southwestern United States
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution