Study: Doctors Fail to Ask Adolescents About Smoking

An audit of Wisconsin Medicaid records concludes that many doctors fail to routinely ask adolescent patients about smoking, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

According to the study, 55 percent of patients ages 11 to 21 were asked about their smoking status by their doctors. The report showed that the younger the patient, the less likelihood the physician was to ask about smoking.

“Previous studies may have overestimated interventions with adolescents because they were based on physician self-report,” said Tammy Sims, M.D., M.S., the study’s lead author from the University of Wisconsin Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center. “We also saw a failure to address tobacco status at more than one visit. This, coupled with their reluctance to ask younger adolescents about smoking status, means that physicians were unlikely to identify early experimenters.”

The study was based on a review of Wisconsin Medicaid HMO files from January 1997 to January 1999. “Through analysis of patient charts, we have found that physicians are losing a golden opportunity to intervene with current teen smokers and to dissuade potential smokers among the younger teen population,” Sims said.

The report is published in the journal Health Services Research.