A population-based survey of physician smoking cessation counseling practices

Prev Med. 1998 Sep-Oct;27(5 Pt 1):720-9. doi: 10.1006/pmed.1998.0350.


Background: To be most effective, physicians' smoking cessation interventions must go beyond advice, to include counseling and follow-up. A full profile of physician performance on the recommended activities to promote smoking cessation has not been provided previously.

Methods: We surveyed a representative sample of 246 community-based primary care physicians who had agreed to participate in a 3-year study to evaluate a strategy for disseminating smoking cessation interventions, based on the National Cancer Institute 4-A model and on the Transtheoretical Model of Change.

Results: A majority reported they Ask (67%) and Advise (74%) their patients about smoking, while few go beyond to Assist (35%) or Arrange follow-up (8%) with patients who smoke. The criteria for "thorough" counseling was met by only 27% of physicians. More than half were not intending to increase counseling activity in the next 6 months. After controlling for other variables, physicians in private offices were more likely than physicians in HMO or other settings to be active with smoking cessation counseling. General Internal Medicine physicians were most active, and Ob/Gyn physicians were least active, with smoking cessation counseling among primary care specialty groups.

Conclusions: Innovative approaches are needed to motivate, support, and reward physicians to counsel their patients who smoke, especially when considering the movement toward managed health care.

Precis: A survey of primary care physicians focusing on national guidelines for smoking cessation counseling showed a majority Ask (67%) and Advise (74%) patients about smoking, but few Assist (35%) or Arrange follow-up (8%).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Community Health Planning
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Family Practice / methods*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rhode Island
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires