Physicians counseling smokers. A population-based survey of patients' perceptions of health care provider-delivered smoking cessation interventions

Arch Intern Med. 1997 Jun 23;157(12):1313-9. doi: 10.1001/archinte.157.12.1313.


Objective: To examine associations between sociodemographic and psychological characteristics of smokers and delivery of 5 types of smoking cessation counseling interventions by physicians and office staff.

Methods: We used a telephone survey of a population-based sample of adult cigarette smokers (N = 3037) who saw a physician in the last year. Primary outcomes included patients' report of whether a physician or other health care provider (1) talked about smoking, (2) advised them to quit, (3) offered help to quit, (4) arranged a follow-up contact, and (5) prescribed nicotine gum or other medication.

Results: Fifty-one percent of smokers were talked to about their smoking; 45.5% were advised to quit; 14.9% were offered help; 3% had a follow-up appointment arranged; and 8.5% were prescribed medication. In multivariate analyses, the most consistent predictors of receipt of almost all counseling behaviors were medical setting (private physician's office only > care in other settings), health status (fair or poor > good, very good, or excellent), more years of education, greater number of cigarettes smoked per day, stage of readiness to quit smoking (preparation > precontemplation), and greater reported benefits of smoking.

Conclusions: Physicians and other health care providers are not meeting the standards of smoking intervention outlined by the National Cancer Institute and the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research. Health care providers who intervene only with those patients who are ready to quit smoking are missing opportunities to provide effective smoking interventions to the majority of their patients. Interventions are also less likely to be provided to healthier and lighter smokers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Counseling / standards*
  • Female
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Patients / psychology*
  • Physician's Role*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Social Perception*