January 9, 2012

Social Stigma Silences Smokers

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Smokers do not reveal their habits to their primary healthcare provider

(dailyRx News) Your doctor may be your best friend when it comes to quitting smoking. Unfortunately, there are still smokers who do not confide in their doctors and seek help in quitting.

A new survey revealed that 13 percent of smokers did not reveal they smoked to their primary healthcare provider. Out of the majority that did say they smoked, only 25 percent sought help to quit from their doctor.

Social stigma may lead smokers to not disclose their habits or seek help.

"Does your insurance cover smoking cessation programs?"

The survey was conducted by researchers from Legacy, a public health organization. Researchers polled 3,146 smokers and former smokers on whether or not they disclosed their smoking to their doctor or if they sought help from their doctor. While the numbers were generally positive, there is still a gap in communication for smokers who may want to quit.

Out of the 3,146 adults polled, 13 percent said they did not tell their doctor they smoked. The reason given was social stigma. The people felt that smoking is frowned upon and smokers may be cast in a negative light.

While higher taxes and the ban on smoking in public places, restaurants or bars have had positive results, it may make the smoker feel unaccepted in society.

This can lead the smoker to hide the fact they smoke and not seek out the help they may want.

Of the people who did reveal their smoking habits, only 25 percent sought help from their doctor. The survey notes that this is quite the missed opportunity. Many insurance policies have expanded their coverage to include some cessation programs.  

Additionally, doctors can be valuable resources when it comes to finding smoking cessation programs and other quitting options.

These results, which are meant to be representative of the entire American population, could mean close to six million Americans who do not disclose their habits or discuss ways to quit with their doctors according to Cheryl G. Healton, Dr.P.H.. President and CEO of American Legacy Foundation.  

That means possibly six million Americans who may not successfully quit which increases their chances to develop some serious long-term illnesses or may not get the proper care for possible health disorders. 

One way to combat this silence is by educating primary healthcare providers in ways to engage in conversation about smoking habits.

This could mean providing guidelines to doctors which provide better and more accurate ways to question a patient and can allow a smoker to open up about their habits.

This survey was published by Legacy.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
January 9, 2012

Last Updated:
January 9, 2012