Third of ED patients smokers - study

A third of all patients seeking treatment at hospital emergency departments are smokers -- a much higher rate than the rest of the population.

The study, by emergency registrar Abigail Lynch and emergency physician Paul Quigley, looked at over 500 patients at Wellington Hospital's emergency department over six days in August last year.

It found 33.1 percent of patients seeking treatment were smokers, compared with 20.7 percent of the New Zealand population.

Dr Lynch said 74.9 percent of the smokers surveyed said they wanted to quit. Of those, 76.3 percent took a quit pack and showed an interest in receiving emergency department-based quitting advice.

Recent studies have shown that patients are more likely to quit smoking with counselling from doctors, especially those who use emergency departments for most or all of their routine health care.

"Seventy-two patients were not registered with a GP and a significant proportion of these patients smoke and would like to quit," Dr Lynch said.

"If smoking is not addressed with these patients during their ED visit, it might not be addressed at all."

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand, with about 5000 deaths each year attributable to direct or second-hand smoking.

The results of the study were publicised in Emergency Medicine Australasia, the journal of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

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