Why Your Doctor Isn't Helping You Quit Smoking

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A new study finds that health care providers in the U.S. recommend their patients quit smoking but often fail to provide assistance.

The Study

A survey of a number of different health professionals--including primary care doctors, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists--found that almost 99% of those who responded to the survey reported asking their patients if they smoked. In addition, almost as many shared warnings about the health risks of smoking. However, the percent who provide patients with smoking cessation resources and assistance was much lower. Among most of the health care professionals, the rate of assistance by helping patients set a quit date was around only 25%--primary care physicians did better than most, with 60% helping patients set a quit date.

Why Is This Important?

Most people know that there are significant health risks associated with smoking, and many know they should quit. Having a doctor or other health care professional tell you to stop smoking can help provide some motivation, especially if you're told more than once, but it doesn't really make the process of quitting easier. Assistance in the form of programs, plans, or medications to help you quit smoking would be much more useful for many people. Health professionals don't offer assistance for a number of reasons: some are smokers themselves, some have certain perceptions about their patients' attitudes toward quitting, and some feel it isn't their responsibility. If your doctor suggests you quit smoking but doesn't offer further help, it might be up to you to ask about what assistance is available. You may be surprised at how helpful your doctor can be once he knows you want his help.

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