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Not Enough Smokers Find Quit Support at the Doctor's Office

National Survey Highlights Lack of Communication, Uneasiness and Limited Resources Create Missed Opportunities for Smokers to Quit

WASHINGTON, April 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Health care providers (HCPs) are one of the most important allies a smoker can have, particularly when it comes to understanding health risks of smoking and learning about the quitting process. Why, then, have more than one in five smokers (21%) never talked to a HCP about their smoking?(1)A national survey from the American Legacy Foundation(R) of more than 1,000 current smokers reveals that smokers may be overlooking critical opportunities to talk to their HCPs about smoking - and, more important, about quitting.

"A surprising number of smokers aren't taking advantage of their health care providers' ability to help them quit smoking, and are therefore continuing to put themselves at risk for serious health issues," said Cheryl G. Healton, Dr. P.H., president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. "Even more alarming is that when conversations do take place about smoking, patients don't seem to be getting the information they need to begin a successful quit attempt."

On average, smokers make 6 to 9 quit attempts in a lifetime.(2) National government guidelines state that the most effective way to quit smoking is through a combination of medication and counseling.(3) But of the smokers surveyed who have talked to their HCP about smoking, just 20 percent were provided with either self-help cessation materials, information about classes and counseling programs, shown a video about quitting, or referred to a cessation specialist the last time they spoke with their HCP.(1) Moreover, fewer than half (44%) were recommended a smoking cessation medication, such as over-the-counter nicotine replacement products or prescription drugs.(1) Ironically, nearly eight in 10 (79%) smokers surveyed said they were satisfied with the help they received from their HCP, even though so few were given resources to quit and all of them remained smokers.(1)

The survey also revealed a disconnect between smokers' perceptions of how their HCP can help in the quitting process and their actions in actually starting a conversation with them. While 83 percent of smokers who want to quit in the next 30 days said they would feel comfortable asking for help, just 53 percent of this group actually asked their HCP for quitting assistance.(1)

These survey findings also identified the following barriers to smokers seeking and getting support for a quit attempt:

  • Only about half of survey respondents (52%) said they think an HCP should help them quit smoking.(1)
  • Nearly half of smokers surveyed (45%) said they are very concerned or concerned about their personal health.(1)
  • While talking to their HCP about smoking, 54 percent of respondents felt the negative emotions of guilt, uneasiness, annoyance, pressure or embarrassment, while just 28 percent reported the positive feelings of motivation, pleasure, or confidence.(1)

"It's clear from this survey that we need to change the way people think about quitting, and help them realize that nicotine addiction is a chronic medical problem that can be overcome with assistance from a health care provider," added Dr. Healton.

To learn more about quitting smoking and to download a discussion guide on how to start an effective dialogue about quitting with a health care provider, visit This survey was supported by a sponsorship from Pfizer Inc.

About the Survey

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of The American Legacy Foundation between November 13 and December 12, 2008 among 1,012 U.S. adults aged 18+ who smoke cigarettes at least occasionally. This sample is the national portion of a larger survey conducted among 2,037 adults ages 18+ who smoke cigarettes at least occasionally, which also included over samples of 345 adults in Baltimore, 341 adults in St. Louis, and 339 adults in New Orleans. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

The American Legacy Foundation(R) is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation's programs include truth(R), a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EX(R), an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use; and a nationally-renowned program of outreach to priority populations. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit

Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research, powered by our science and technology, we assist clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through our North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information, please visit


  1. Survey conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by American Legacy Foundation and Pfizer Inc. Smokers' Perceptions of Healthcare Providers. January 2009.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Women and Smoking. A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2001.
  3. Fiore MC, Jaen CR, Baker TB, et al. Treating tobacco use and dependence: 2008 update. Clinical practice guideline. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service; 2008.

SOURCE American Legacy Foundation
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