Health Professionals Often Do Little to Help Smokers Quit

Most ask and advise patients about smoking, but many go no further

WEDNESDAY, June 23 (HealthDay News) -- Many health care professionals ask patients about smoking and advise them to quit but do not follow guidelines to help patients actually give up the habit, according to research published online May 27 in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.

Elisa K. Tong, M.D., of the University of California in Davis, and colleagues surveyed 2,804 individuals from seven health care professions -- primary care physicians, emergency medicine physicians, psychiatrists, registered nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, and pharmacists -- about their own smoking status and whether they follow the five A's (asking, advising, assessing, assisting, and arranging follow-up).

The researchers found smoking rare in most health care professionals (fewer than 6 percent), though 13 percent of nurses reported smoking. Most of those surveyed reported asking and advising patients about smoking (87.3 to 99.5 percent and 65.6 to 94.9 percent, respectively), but many said they did not assess smokers' interest (38.7 to 84.8 percent), assist (16.4 to 63.7 percent), or arrange follow-up (1.3 to 23.1 percent). Factors positively associated with performing the five A's included awareness of Public Health Services guidelines, having had cessation training, and considering treatment an important professional responsibility. Factors negatively associated with performing the five A's included being a smoker, not being a primary care physician, and having competing priorities.

"U.S. health professionals report not fully performing the five As. The common barriers and facilitators identified may help inform strategies for increasing the involvement of all health professionals in conducting tobacco dependence treatments," the authors write.

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Monica Smith

Monica Smith

Updated on June 23, 2010

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