Not All Health Care Providers Told Patients to Quit Smoking

Cigarette smoking patients received advice to quit more often from doctors than dentists

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) A professional's advice — even if it's about something widely known — can carry a lot of weight. But some professionals may be missing chances to advise patients to quit smoking.

A recent study looked at smokers in 2010 who had visited a health care provider during the past year.

The results showed that doctors advised patients who smoked to quit smoking more often than dentists, and neither group advised all patients to quit.

"Seek medical professionals and support groups to help you quit smoking."

According to the authors of this new study, which was led by Amy K. Ferketich, PhD, of Ohio State University in Columbus, the US Public Health Service recommends that all health care providers promote tobacco cessation — or quitting smoking — to all patients, regardless of the health care provider's specialty.

Dr. Ferketich and colleagues wanted to see whether different types of health care providers — doctors and dentists, specifically — were advising patients to quit in different ways. To examine this topic, the researchers utilized data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey, a survey of thousands of people across the US.

From this survey, the researchers identified 3,612 smokers who had visited a health care provider during the previous year. These participants were 76.2 percent non-Hispanic white, and the majority (77.8 percent) were between 25 and 64 years old.

The participants were asked if they had received advice to quit smoking and, if so, what kind of health care provider had discussed the matter with them. Overall, 54.4 percent of these current smokers reported that a health care provider had advised them to quit smoking in the past 12 months.

The study authors found differences between different groups of smokers. For example, those who were male, between the ages of 18 to 24, Hispanic and from the South were less likely to have received advice to quit.

Of the participants who had visited a doctor, 50.7 percent received advice to quit smoking. Of those who visited a dentist or dental hygienist, 11.8 percent reported being advised to quit.

"Of all smokers who reported receiving advice to quit smoking, more than 90 percent reported receiving the advice from a physician, whereas only 13.5 percent reported receiving such advice from a dental worker," Dr. Ferketich and team wrote.

The researchers noted that changes in the policies of professional organizations or continuing education programs might help increase the number of health care providers advising their patients to quit smoking.

Further research is needed to confirm these findings and understand why differences in tobacco cessation promotion might exist between types of health care providers, the study authors noted.

The study was published July 31 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's online journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute provided some funding for the study. The researchers disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 31, 2014
Last Updated:
August 1, 2014