Four years ago we considered how doctors could best help their patients to give up smoking and concluded that the most effective way was by example and by making clear the advantages to health that ensue.1 A study by general practitioners published recently reinforces this conclusion.2 During 4 weeks all the cigarette smokers (over 2000) attending the surgeries of 28 London GPs were randomly allocated to one of 4 equal groups. One group acted as controls and simply had their names taken for follow-up. A second group completed a questionnaire about their smoking attitudes and habits but were not advised about smoking. A third group completed the questionnaire and then during their consultation were firmly advised by their practitioner to stop smoking in a brief firm talk lasting 1–2 minutes. The final group completed the questionnaire, were similarly advised to stop smoking and were also given the 1968 DHSS leaflet to read on ‘How you can give up smoking’.* The leaflet gave a bleak description of the risks of smoking as well as advice on how to stop.
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↵* This leaflet is now out of print. A rather more detailed alternative entitled ‘The smoker’s guide to non-smoking’ can be obtained free of charge from The Health Education Council, 78 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1AH. Telephone 01-637 1881.