Outpatient pediatric visits good opportunity to help parents quit smoking

Children's visits to pediatricians or other medical practitioners offer an excellent opportunity to counsel parents about their own smoking and offer smoking cessation services. However, U.S. pediatricians and family practitioners are not regularly discussing smoking with parents, despite the fact that their professional organizations recommend they do so. These findings, by research teams based at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, are reported in two papers in the November 2003 issue of Pediatrics.

"Our overall goal is to bring evidence-based, effective tobacco control measures into the pediatric setting," says Jonathan Winickoff, MD, MPH of the MGH Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy, the lead author of both reports. "Most physicians treating children are not currently intervening effectively with parents about smoking, and our research has shown that doing so is both feasible and welcomed by the parents."

The research team, which includes a physician from Boston Children's Hospital, had previously published a study showing that a child's hospitalization for respiratory illness was a good occasion for offering stop-smoking services to parents. One of the current studies was designed to see if outpatient-visit counseling could lead to the same results.

During a four-month period, parents or other adults bringing a child to a Children's Hospital outpatient clinic for respiratory illness or other conditions related to tobacco smoke were asked about their own smoking habits. Those who reported smoking were invited to participate in the Stop Tobacco Outreach Program (STOP), a free service including a motivational interview, nicotine replacement, follow-up phone counseling and referrals to both their primary care physicians and to the Massachusetts Smokers Quitline.

Of 100 parents enrolling in the program, 78 percent accepted nicotine replacement therapy, and 81 percent completed both the in-person and telephone counsel

Contact: Sue McGreevey
Massachusetts General Hospital

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