An intervention in the emergency department designed to encourage tobacco cessation in smokers appears to be effective. Two and a half times more patients in the intervention group were tobacco-free three months after receiving interventions than those who did not receive the interventions, according to a study published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine ("Successful Tobacco Dependence Treatment in Low-Income Emergency Department Patients: A Randomized Trial")*.
"Because approximately 20 million smokers visit emergency departments annually, this intervention has the potential to greatly reduce tobacco use among our patients," said lead study author Steven L. Bernstein, MD, of the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. "Given that cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the United States, anything we can do to discourage smoking has value. The need is particularly acute in low-income populations like those we studied."
Researchers enrolled 778 patients who identified as smokers. They provided motivational interviewing, nicotine replacement and quitline referral for 386 of the patients. After three months, 12.2 percent of those patients were tobacco-free. Of the control group, only 4.9 percent were tobacco-free. The three-month abstinence rate was biochemically verified. At one year, abstinence rates were statistically significant as well for the intervention group, at least according to self-reported rates.
"While a busy emergency department may not welcome the additional responsibility of tobacco-cessation counseling, sometimes we have to meet our patients where they are," said Dr. Bernstein. "Future research should focus on longer-term interventions, as well as mobile health technologies, such as texting."