New results from a national survey show that over one in ten smokers (13%) in the United States did not disclose their smoking status to their health-care providers (HCP), who are among the most important resources that a smoker could have in quitting successfully.
Furthermore, social stigma around smoking may contribute to why smokers sometimes keep their smoking status a secret from their doctors. The survey of 3,146 adult participants in the U.S. (smokers and former smokers) was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population.
Researchers from Legacy, a national public health organization dedicated to building a world where anyone can quit, say that while a majority of smokers did admit their smoking status, only one-quarter sought help from their doctors or health care providers during their last quit attempt. Although most smokers surveyed stated they are honest with their health care provider (HCP), one in ten smokers reported they do not disclose their smoking status. The findings have important implications for how HCPs can more effectively reach smokers with resources to help them quit.
“Health care providers play a critical role in reaching smokers with appropriate messages and resources for quitting, especially now that insurance coverage has expanded to include some smoking cessation treatments. It becomes a missed public health opportunity if what amounts to more than six million smokers in the United States do not talk to doctors and nurses about smoking and quitting,” said Cheryl G. Healton, Dr. PH, President and CEO of Legacy.
Using a nationally representative panel, researchers surveyed smokers and former smokers to examine issues that might affect a smokers’ decision to conceal their smoking status. The results found that smokers who concealed their smoking from HCPs were more likely to perceive high smoking-related stigma compared to those who had not ever concealed their smoking.
“There has been a significant shift in the social climate around tobacco and smoking in our country in recent years as people recognize the health consequences of tobacco and second-hand smoke. As an unintended result of higher prices of cigarettes, increased measures to ban smoking in public places, and create smoke-free workplaces, many smokers may feel marginalized and less compelled to discuss smoking with their physicians and other providers,” said Healton.
To address the void between doctors and all smokers, Legacy has developed a guide for HCPs with strategies on how to conduct more meaningful and effective conversations with their patients about smoking and quitting. “If we can start the conversation by acknowledging smoking behavior, we can get smokers on a path to quit,” Healton said.