Intended for healthcare professionals


Helping patients in hospital to quit smoking

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 12 January 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:64

Dedicated counselling services are effective—others are not

  1. Robert West, professor of psychology (
  1. Psychology Department, St George's Hospital Medical School, Cranmer terrace, London SW17 0RE

    Papers p 87

    This issue reports a study that nicely encapsulates the problems facing hospitals who want to encourage and help their patients to stop smoking (p 87).1 The study focuses on inpatients with cardiac disorders who want to stop smoking and examines whether a brief intervention (averaging 34 minutes) delivered on the ward by nurses would help them stop. It finds no effect at six weeks and at follow up after one year. This mirrors results with other patient groups. Most notably two large randomised controlled trials, one in the United Kingdom and one in Denmark, have found that a brief intervention by midwives failed to improve pregnant smokers' chances of stopping. 2 3 All three studies also found that busy staff had considerable difficulty finding time to undertake the counselling. How can one square this with claims that brief advice from healthcare professionals leads patients to stop smoking and that …

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