Background: No-smoking policies are mandatory in U.S. hospitals. Consequently, smokers who are hospitalized must temporarily stop smoking. Nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) could help hospitalized smokers relieve nicotine withdrawal symptoms, comply with no-smoking policies, and sustain tobacco abstinence after discharge. The extent of NRT use in the hospital setting is unknown. We describe the prevalence and patterns of NRT use in hospitalized smokers. Design: Prospective observational study within a randomized smoking-intervention trial. Setting/Participants: Six hundred fifty adult smokers admitted to the medical and surgical services of a large urban teaching hospital that prohibits smoking in all indoor areas. Follow-up was at 6 months. Main Outcome Measure: Inpatient pharmacy records of nicotine patch or gum use. Results: Only 34 of 650 smokers (5.2%) received NRT during their hospital stay, including only 9.6% of smokers who reported difficulty refraining from smoking while hospitalized and 9.0% of hospitalized smokers with nicotine withdrawal. NRT was more likely to be prescribed to patients with nicotine withdrawal (OR 2.23; 95% CI: 1.01, 4.90), a higher daily cigarette consumption (OR 1.04; 95% CI: 1.01, 1.06), and a longer hospitalization (OR 1.05; 95% CI: 1.00, 1.10). NRT use was independent of a patient's intention to quit smoking after discharge and was not associated with smoking cessation 1 and 6 months after discharge. Conclusions: NRT was rarely used in this hospital, even among those who could have benefited from it to treat nicotine-withdrawal symptoms. When NRT was used, relief of nicotine withdrawal, rather than assistance with smoking cessation, appeared to be the primary goal. Greater use of NRT could benefit the estimated 6.5 million smokers who are hospitalized annually by reducing nicotine withdrawal, encouraging smoking cessation, and ensuring compliance with hospital no-smoking policies.
- Smoking cessation
- Tobacco use disorder
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health