Most North Carolina high school students not asked about smoking by health care providers

In a new survey, nearly two-thirds of North Carolina high school students who responded said that no health care professional they had seen asked them if they smoke, or advised them against smoking.

Most North Carolina high school students not asked about smoking by health care providers
click to enlarge
Dr. Adam Goldstein

Media contact: Donna Parker, 919-843-4760, donna_parker@med.unc.edu

Thursday, June 20, 2013

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Nearly two-thirds of North Carolina high school students who responded in a new survey said that no health care professional they had seen asked them if they smoke, or advised them not to smoke.

These results are from the 2009 North Carolina Youth Tobacco Survey (NCYTS), a biannual public and charter school-based survey of students in grades 6-12, administered by the Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health.  A report of the results is published in the May/June 2013 issue of the North Carolina Medical Journal.

“It appears that physicians do not commonly discuss smoking when interacting with their younger patients,” said Dr. Adam Goldstein, director of the Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program (TPEP) at University of North Carolina School of Medicine, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and a co-author of the study.  “With the absence of funding from the General Assembly this year for tobacco prevention funding, now is the time for North Carolina health professionals to communicate with young patients about their tobacco use in order to sustain historical low rates of smoking in this age group.”

Among high school students, slightly more than one-third (35 percent) reported that a health professional asked them about smoking, and slightly less than one-third (30 percent) reported that a health professional advised them not to smoke. In addition, the study reports that for high school students, increasing age actually decreased their odds of having been advised not to smoke, by 11 percent for each additional year of age. Males are less likely than females to report having been asked by a health professional about smoking. Among both middle and high school students who smoke, having attempted to quit was significantly related to having been asked about smoking and having been advised not to smoke.

Among North Carolina middle school students, only 16 percent reported that a health professional had asked them about smoking and only 29 percent reported having been advised not to smoke by a health professional.

“The fact is that all health care professionals need to increase their communication about the harmful effects of tobacco with their adolescent patients,” Goldstein said. "We are not doing enough."

“Messages delivered early and often are critically important,” said Dr. Kelly Kandra, and assistant professor at Benedectine University and first author of the study, who earned her PhD at UNC.  “Adolescents are at high risk for initiating and continuing tobacco use. Almost 80 percent of adult smokers report that they regularly smoked cigarettes during their teenage years and longitudinal data indicate that first smoking experimentation typically happens between the ages of 11 and 13.”

Share This: