Rates of US physicians counseling adolescents about smoking JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE Thorndike, A. N., Ferris, T. G., Stafford, R. S., Rigotti, N. A. 1999; 91 (21): 1857-1862


The health care system provides an important opportunity for addressing tobacco use among youths, but there is little information about how frequently physicians discuss smoking with their adolescent patients. We analyzed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys to assess the prevalence and the predictors of physicians' identification of smoking status and counseling about smoking at office visits by adolescents.From 1991 through 1996, 5087 physicians recorded data on 16 648 visits by adolescents aged 11-21 years. We determined the proportion of office visits at which physicians identified an adolescent's smoking status and counseled about smoking and then identified predictors of these outcomes with logistic regression. Statistical tests were two-sided.In 1991, physicians identified an adolescent's smoking status at 72.4% of visits but provided smoking counseling at only 1.6% of all adolescent visits and 16.9% of visits by adolescents identified as smokers. These proportions did not increase from 1991 through 1996. Compared with specialists, primary care physicians were more likely to identify smoking status (odds ratio [OR] = 1.70; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.53-1.89) and to counsel about smoking (OR = 3.43; 95% CI = 2.18-5.38). Patients with diagnoses of conditions potentially complicated by smoking were more likely to have their smoking status identified and to be counseled about smoking. Younger and nonwhite adolescents were less likely to be counseled about smoking than older and white teens.We found that physicians frequently identified adolescents' smoking status but rarely counseled them about smoking. Physicians' practices did not improve in the first half of the 1990s, despite a clear consensus about the importance of this activity and the publication of physician guidelines targeting this population. Physicians treating adolescents are missing opportunities to discourage tobacco use among teens.

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