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Doctors Lack Smoking Cessation Training

Study finds most get less than 5 hours instruction, likely affecting patients' quit rates

MONDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Few doctors or other health-care providers have enough smoking cessation training to help their patients quit smoking, a U.S. study suggests.

It found that 87 percent to 93 percent of doctors and other health-care workers receive less than five hours of training on tobacco dependence, and less than 6 percent know the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) treatment guidelines for tobacco dependence, including the signs of nicotine withdrawal. This lack of knowledge about treating tobacco dependence may affect quit rates among smokers, suggested lead researcher Virginia Reichert and colleagues at the North Shore-LIJ Health System Center for Tobacco Control in Great Neck, N.Y.

They surveyed 322 prescribers (physicians, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants) and 278 nonprescribers (pharmacists, registered nurses, social workers, counselors, respiratory therapists, and students).

The researchers found that 87 percent of prescribers and 93 percent of nonprescribers received less than five hours of tobacco-dependence training. Only 6 percent of prescribers and 5 percent of nonprescribers knew the AHRQ treatment guidelines for tobacco dependence.

The study also found only 16 percent of prescribers and 8 percent of nonprescribers knew which U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved medications were over-the-counter and which required a prescription.

The findings were to be presented Monday at the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) annual meeting, in Philadelphia.

"Without appropriate training in tobacco dependence treatment, health- care providers may lack the knowledge and confidence to help their patients quit smoking," Reichert said in an ACCP news release. "Furthermore, providers may not recognize that tobacco dependence is a chronic relapsing condition and become frustrated when patients do not quit when advised to do so."

Previous studies have found that about 70 percent of smokers want to quit but believe it will be too difficult without assistance, and that smokers are 30 percent more likely to kick the habit if they receive help from their health-care provider.

More information

The American Cancer Society offers advice about quitting smoking.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American College of Chest Physicians, news release, Oct. 27, 2008

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