1 In 10 Smokers Hides Cigarette Use From Doctor, Study Shows

01/06/2012 05:22 pm ET

A new study shows that 13 percent of smokers don't tell their doctor that they smoke, likely because they fear the social stigma that comes with being a cigarette-smoker.

"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 secondhand smoke," Chery, G. Healton, Dr. PH, president and CEO of Legacy, the health organization that conducted the study, said in a statement.

"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," Healton said.

MyHealthNewsDaily reported that two-thirds of people who didn't tell their doctor about their smoking said they didn't do so because they didn't want to be lectured about their habit.

The study also showed that only about 25 percent of smokers in the study asked their doctor or health-care provider for help to quit smoking the last time they tried to stop.

The survey included 3,146 adults in the United States who were former or current smokers.

"The doctor has to ask about smoking history," Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told MyHealthNewsDaily. "And if the patient doesn't tell the truth, "you can often smell it on their clothes or their breath, and so you have to confront them."

A study published in 2008 in The Cochrane Library shows that doctors who actually take the time to talk to their patients about their smoking help to increase the patient's chance of quitting. A news release reported that an unassisted quit rate for smokers is 2 to 3 percent, but if a doctor intervenes, the quit rate can be increased by an additional 1 to 3 percent.

"To a non-clinician, these results may seem underwhelming, but [they] are really quite significant when you consider how many people who smoke see a physician every year -- about 80 percent -- and how many more of them would quit if all doctors advised them to do so at every visit," Abigail Halperin, M.D., who was not involved in this study, said in a statement.

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