Physicians discuss the risks of smoking with their patients, but seldom offer practical cessation support

Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy. 2015 Nov 2:10:43. doi: 10.1186/s13011-015-0039-9.


Background: Our aim was to study the smoking cessation-related 1) attitudes & experiences and 2) consultation practices of Finnish physicians and to determine if there is a relationship between the two.

Methods: An online survey on smoking cessation was sent to 39 % of all Finnish physicians, with emphasis on physicians working in fields relevant to smoking cessation. A total of 1141 physicians (response rate 15 %) responded to the online survey, 53 % of whom were employed in primary health care. A total of 1066 respondents were eligible for the analysis. The questionnaire included questions on the physician's own smoking status, their attitudes and experiences on smoking cessation, and the implementation of smoking cessation in clinical practice. Two sub-scales concerning smoking-related consultation activities were constructed: one for conversation, and another for practical actions.

Results: The most common consultation activities (respondents who reported doing the following actions "nearly always") were asking how much the patient smokes (65 %), marking smoking status in patient records (58 %) and recommending quitting to the patient (55 %). The least common activity was prescribing withdrawal medication (4 %). Primary care physicians were more active than those working in secondary health care in nearly all activities mapped. A positive attitude and experiences on smoking cessation were associated with actively offering withdrawal support. Those who were familiar with the local treatment guidelines for tobacco addiction were 30 % more active in offering practical cessation help to their patient. The respondents were more active in discussing smoking with their patients than in offering practical cessation help.

Conclusion: Physicians offer their patients practical cessation support relatively infrequently. Practical cessation calls for continuous education of physicians about the nature of tobacco and nicotine addiction, the role of smoking as a risk factor for various diseases, and the practical measures needed for smoking cessation. Secondary care physicians should acknowledge the authority they pose toward smoking patients.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Risk*
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking Cessation* / methods
  • Smoking Cessation* / psychology