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January 25, 2001

Pediatricians Don't Counsel Parents to Kick Smoking Habit

Although secondhand smoke is a major cause of disease in young children, many pediatricians are reluctant to broach the subject of smoking cessation with parents who smoke, according a UCSF study.

Many pediatricians feel that they lack the training to counsel parents who smoke, even though quitting may be one of the best things a parent can do for the health of his or her child, found the study led by Eliseo Perez-Stable, MD, professor of medicine and chief of the division of general internal medicine.

The study in the January issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine surveyed some 500 pediatricians and family physicians in urban areas of California about their knowledge and practice of smoking cessation counseling with parents. Researchers found that family physicians compared to pediatricians were more likely to refer a parent to a stop smoking program, distribute pamphlets on smoking cessation and schedule follow up visits to discuss quitting.

Pediatricians were more likely than family physicians to note in medical records smoking by a parent as a problem for the child (65% to 48%), but a higher percentage of pediatricians felt that parents would ignore advice (39% to 24%) and lacked interest in quitting (45% to 27%).

One-fourth of the pediatricians surveyed felt they lacked smoking cessation counseling skills.

Overall, 37% of pediatricians and 41% of family physicians agreed that counseling and referring parents to smoking cessation programs would be time-consuming.

"Educational interventions for pediatricians are needed to decrease secondhand smoke exposure for young children," urged the UCSF researchers.

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