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Most Hospitalized Smokers Given Advice on Quitting

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Almost all smokers who are hospitalized in the United States receive advice on quitting, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on how often hospitals provided smoking cessation counseling to patients. They found in 2002, an estimated 67 percent of heart attack patients who smoked received counseling in the hospital. That number rose to 99 percent in 2008, according to Reuters.

Rates of smoking cessation counseling also jumped among patients hospitalized for heart failure and pneumonia, the researchers report in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Lead researcher Douglas Levy of Harvard Medical School says the rise in smoking cessation counseling resulted from new rules that required smokers discharged from the hospital after being treated for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia be given smoking cessation advice. Levy noted the rules were very loose. “There are anecdotal reports of hospitals putting a postcard in the patient’s room saying, ‘you should quit smoking’ and checking off the box that they’ve provided smoking cessation advice or counseling,” he said.

Levy noted his study did not show whether the increase in smoking cessation counseling resulted in higher rates of quitting.

The Joint Commission, which sets hospital standards, issued the 2002 smoking cessation counseling guidelines with CMS, and is now revising them. They are expected to be issued in 2012. Under the new rules, hospitals will be required to follow up with patients 30 days after discharge to see if they quit smoking, according to Michael Fiore, Director of the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention at the University of Wisconsin, who is on the panel revising the rules.

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