Docs miss counseling kids about tobacco use

September 4, 2014

Physicians may be missing a chance to prevent tobacco use among adolescents by not discouraging the use of tobacco products or advising patients against smoking during annual visits, according to a recent study.

 

Physicians may be missing a chance to prevent tobacco use among adolescents by not discouraging the use of tobacco products or advising patients against smoking during annual visits, according to a recent study.

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The 2011 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which is a nationally representative school-based survey of adolescents in grades 6 through 12, included 18,385 students who had visited a healthcare provider in the past year. About 16% of surveyed students reported currently using tobacco. Nearly 11% of these were current cigarette smokers, with 3.6% considered to be established smokers (reporting cigarette use on 20 or more of the last 30 days) and 7.2% considered as nonestablished smokers (smoking on between 1 and 19 of the past 30 days). Roughly 17% of the students were former smokers, while 72% had never smoked. Among the never smokers, nearly a quarter responded that they were highly likely to try tobacco products or smoking in the next year.

The students were also asked about tobacco use counseling from their healthcare provider. Almost one-third of all respondents, whether they were smokers or not, said that they had been asked about tobacco use by their healthcare provider, and of these 31.4% said they had been advised to quit or to avoid tobacco completely. Students who were established smokers were more likely than any other group to report that their provider had assessed them for tobacco use and offered advice. Those who had been given advice on quitting had higher adjusted odds of attempting to quit tobacco use in the previous year.

Among current tobacco users, the prevalence of being asked was much higher for high school students than for middle school students. The prevalence also increased with age. Also of interest, 74.9% of girls who were established smokers reported being asked about tobacco use by their healthcare provider, compared with 58.4% of their male counterparts who were asked about it.

Lead researcher Gillian L Schauer, who worked as a contractor in the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicated that tying tobacco use to health effects including acne and yellow teeth could be beneficial. Also, using campaigns such as the CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers can break the ice on a potentially difficult subject.

 

 

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