• Article

Smoking status as a vital sign

OBJECTIVE: We conducted this study to determine if a smoking status stamp would prompt physicians to increase the number of times they ask, advise, assist, and arrange follow-up for African-American patients about smoking-related issues.
DESIGN: An intervention study with a posttest assessment (after the physician visit) conducted over four 1-month blocks. The control period was the first 2 weeks of each month, while the following 2 weeks served as the intervention period.
SETTING: An adult walk-in clinic in a large inner-city hospital.
PARTICIPANTS: We consecutively enrolled into the study 2,595 African-American patients (1,229 intervention and 1,366 control subjects) seen by a housestaff physician.
INTERVENTIONS: A smoking status stamp placed on clinic charts during the intervention period.
MAIN RESULTS: Forty-five housestaff rotated through the clinic in 1-month blocks. In univariate analyses, patients were significantly more likely to be asked by their physicians if they smoke cigarettes during the intervention compared with the control period, 78.4% versus 45.6% (odds ratio [OR] 4.28; 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.58, 5.10). Patients were also more likely to be told by their physician to quit, 39.9% versus 26.9% (OR 1.81; 95% CI 1.36, 2.40), and have follow-up arranged, 12.3% versus 6.2% (OR 2.16; 95% CI 1.30, 3.38).
CONCLUSIONS: The stamp had a significant effect on increasing rates of asking about cigarette smoking, telling patients to quit, and arranging follow-up for smoking cessation. However, the stamp did not improve the low rate at which physicians offered patients specific advice on how to quit or in setting a quit date.


Ahluwalia, JS., Gibson, CA., Kenney, RE., Wallace, D., & Resnicow, K. (1999). Smoking status as a vital sign. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 14(7), 402-408. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1525-1497.1999.09078.x