Forty-three patients--recipients of a highly structured, physician-delivered smoking cessation intervention--were interviewed using ethnographic (anthropological) research methods. We conducted interviews with patients after visits with the physician, then audiotaped and transcribed them. Discourse analysis of interview texts identified features and components of the physician maneuver most effective from the patients' point of view. Patients discussed two general areas of physicians' preventive activities: an interventionistic component (in which professional, diagnostic, and authoritative features were emphasized) and a personalistic component (in which physicians were experienced as equals, supportive, caring, empowering, and challenging). From the perspective of patients, the personalistic component of the physician-delivered smoking cessation maneuver appeared most effective. We conclude that, in clinical preventive medicine generally, patients (1) evaluate the kind of support they receive from their physician (e.g., degree of empathy, encouragement, and sincerity), (2) respond favorably to positive imagery in the challenge to alter their lifestyle, (3) look for a balance in the relationship established with their physician (negotiation, respect, mutual understanding, and rapport), and (4) remember the consistency and regularity of their physician's health promotion messages.