Few physicians counsel adolescents about smoking

November 02, 1999

Despite the fact that most smokers take up the habit as adolescents, few U.S. physicians counsel their young patients about the health risks of smoking, according to a study appearing in the Nov. 3 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The report from physicians in the General Medicine Division of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that, even when they knew their patients were smokers, physicians reported discussing smoking at office visits less than 20 percent of the time.

"We were surprised that counseling of all adolescents was so low and that it did not improve during the 1990s, despite the fact that numerous physician and government organizations recommend that all adolescents receive counseling, whether they currently smoked or not," says Anne Thorndike, MD, the study's lead author.

During the years 1991 through 1996, physicians responding to a national survey reported asking young patients ages 11 to 21 about their smoking habits at 71 percent of office visits. But they provided counseling and advice about smoking at less than 2 percent of overall office visits. In the 8.5 percent of office visits when patients identified themselves as smokers, physicians counseled patients on the risks of smoking and benefits of quitting 17 percent of the time.

The frequency at which physicians asked about smoking did not improve during the years studied; in fact, there was a small decrease from 72.5 percent in 1991 to 66.5 percent in 1996. The percentage of patients identifying themselves as smokers and the percentage of visits that included smoking-related counseling remained unchanged during the study period.

"We know that the peak years for young people to begin smoking are ages 13 and 14," Thorndike explained. "Even when youngsters tell their doctors they don't smoke, they may be experimenting with cigarettes or other tobacco products. It's important to get these prevention messages across before they become regular smokers."

The study also found that younger and nonwhite adolescents were even less likely to receive smoking-related counseling that older and white teenagers. Physicians were most likely to counsel patients about smoking if the office visit was for a respiratory problem like asthma or for pregnancy.

The study examined data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys of 1991 through 1996. In the annual survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, physicians complete a form after outpatient visits, answering questions about patients' diagnoses and the treatments provided.

Co-authors of the study were Timothy Ferris, MD, Randall Stafford, MD, and Nancy Rigotti, MD, all of the MGH General Medicine Unit. Rigotti also is director of Tobacco Research and Treatment at the MGH. The study was supported by grants from the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Massachusetts General Hospital

Related Smoking Articles from Brightsurf:

Smoking rates falling in adults, but stroke survivors' smoking rates remain steady
While the rate of Americans who smoke tobacco has fallen steadily over the last two decades, the rate of stroke survivors who smoke has not changed significantly.

What is your risk from smoking? Your network knows!
A new study from researchers at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication found that most people, smokers and non-smokers alike, were nowhere near accurate in their answers to questions about smoking's health effects.

Want to quit smoking? Partner up
Kicking the habit works best in pairs. That's the main message of a study presented today at EuroPrevent 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

Smoking and mortality in Asia
In this analysis of data from 20 studies conducted in China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and India with more than 1 million participants, deaths associated with smoking continued to increase among men in Asia grouped by the years in which they were born.

Predictors of successfully quitting smoking among smokers registered at the quit smoking clinic at a public hospital in northeastern Malaysia
In the current issue of Family Medicine and Community Health, Nur Izzati Mohammad et al. consider how cigarette smoking is one of the risk factors leading to noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular and respiratory system diseases and cancer.

Restaurant and bar smoking bans do reduce smoking, especially among the highly educated
Smoking risk drops significantly in college graduates when they live near areas that have completely banned smoking in bars and restaurants, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

How the UK smoking ban increased wellbeing
Married women with children reported the largest increase in well-being following the smoking bans in the UK in 2006 and 2007 but there was no comparable increase for married men with children.

Smoking study personalizes treatment
A simple blood test is allowing Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) researchers to determine which patients should be prescribed varenicline (Chantix) to stop smoking and which patients could do just as well, and avoid side effects, by using a nicotine patch.

A biophysical smoking gun
While much about Alzheimer's disease remains a mystery, scientists do know that part of the disease's progression involves a normal protein called tau, aggregating to form ropelike inclusions within brain cells that eventually strangle the neurons.

A case where smoking helped
A mutation in the hemoglobin of a young woman in Germany was found to cause her mild anemia.

Read More: Smoking News and Smoking Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.