Nondisclosure of smoking status to health care providers among current and former smokers in the United States
An unintended consequence of tobacco control’s success in marginalizing smoking is that smokers may conceal their smoking from those who are best positioned to help them quit: health care providers (HCPs). The purpose of this study was to identify the prevalence of, and factors related to, nondisclosure of smoking to HCPs. Data were obtained from a cross-sectional survey of adults from a nationally representative Knowledge Networks online panel in March to April 2011. Current and former smokers (n = 2,803) were asked questions about nondisclosure, tobacco use, cessation behavior, and perceived social unacceptability of smoking. All variables significantly related (p < .05) to nondisclosure in bivariate logistic regression were included in the multivariate logistic regression model, which also adjusted for gender, age, race, marital status, and education. Approximately 1 in 10 smokers (12.9%) and 5.8% of former smokers has withheld their smoking status from HCPs. Ever smokers who were 18 to 34 years, those who had used a prescription medication or behavioral therapy in their last quit attempt, and those who were uncomfortable discussing smoking with their HCP were more likely to report nondisclosure than those in their respective comparison groups. Respondents who perceived either medium or high smoker-related stigma (odds ratio [OR] = 1.70, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.05, 2.77 and OR = 2.60, 95% CI = 1.51, 4.48, respectively) and those who reported concealing smoking to gain benefits from health insurance were also significantly more likely to have kept smoking a secret from an HCP (OR = 5.66, 95% CI = 1.88, 17.02). Smokers should be encouraged to be forthright about their smoking in order for practitioners to offer treatment and services that increase their chances of quitting.