Objective: To estimate the proportion of general practitioners (GPs) and family physicians (FPs) with negative beliefs and attitudes towards discussing smoking cessation with patients.
Methods: A systematic review.
Study selection: All studies published in English, in peer-reviewed journals, which allowed the extraction of the proportion of GPs and FPs with negative beliefs and attitudes towards discussing smoking cessation.
Data synthesis: Negative beliefs and attitudes were extracted and categorised. Proportions were synthesized giving greater weight to those obtained from studies with larger samples. Those assessed in two or more studies are reported.
Results: Across 19 studies, eight negative beliefs and attitudes were identified. While the majority of GPs and FPs do not have negative beliefs and attitudes towards discussing smoking with their patients, a sizeable minority do. The most common negative beliefs were that such discussions were too time-consuming (weighted proportion: 42%) and were ineffective (38%). Just over a quarter (22%) of physicians reported lacking confidence in their ability to discuss smoking with their patients, 18% felt such discussions were unpleasant, 16% lacked confidence in their knowledge, and relatively few considered discussing smoking outside of their professional duty (5%), or that this intruded upon patients' privacy (5%), or that such discussion were inappropriate (3%).
Conclusions: In addition to providing skills training, interventions designed to increase the implementation of smoking cessation interventions by primary care physicians may be more effective if they address a range of commonly held negative beliefs and attitudes towards discussing smoking cessation. These include beliefs and values that influence primary care physicians' judgements about whether discussing smoking is an effective use of their time.