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Br J Gen Pract. Mar 2000; 50(452): 207–210.
PMCID: PMC1313652

Factors influencing discussion of smoking between general practitioners and patients who smoke: a qualitative study.


BACKGROUND: Anti-smoking advice from general practitioners (GPs) is effective and recent evidence-based guidelines urge GPs to advise all patients against smoking at every opportunity. GPs do not exploit many opportunities to discuss smoking with patients and the reasons for this are unclear. AIM: To elicit, relate, and interpret GPs' accounts of why they discuss smoking with some patients and not others. METHOD: Thirty-nine Leicestershire GPs were purposively selected so as to have a range of attitudes towards discussing smoking with patients. Each GP had one surgery session video-recorded and afterwards participated in a qualitative, semi-structured interview. Prior to each interview, GPs were shown a video-recording of one of their consultations with a smoker to enhance their recall of events. RESULTS: Being aware of patients' smoking status did not necessarily result in GPs discussing smoking with patients. GPs were keen to preserve good doctor-patient relationships and avoid negative responses from patients once the topic of smoking had been raised, and this was felt to be best achieved by restricting most discussions about smoking to situations where patients presented with smoking-related problems and in circumstances where the doctors perceived the doctor-patient relationship was strong. Doctors also thought it important to address patients' agendas relating to the current consultation before discussing smoking. CONCLUSIONS: General practitioners have strong reasons for preferring to discuss smoking when patients present with smoking-related problems. Those wishing to increase the amount of advice-giving by GPs might be more successful if they encouraged GPs to make greater use of problem-orientated opportunities to discuss smoking.

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Selected References

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