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Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Smoking behavior and delivery of evidence-based care for veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders


Weaver FM, Smith B, LaVela SL, Evans CT, Ullrich P, Miskevics S, Goldstein B, Strayer J, Burns SP



Publication Info:

Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine, 34(1):35-45


OBJECTIVE: Little is known about those veterans with spinal cord injuries and disorders (SCI/D) who smoke cigarettes. This study identified the factors associated with smoking in this population, motivations for smoking, and the readiness for smoking cessation. Current practices for the delivery of evidence-based tobacco cessation were also examined.
DESIGN: Methods included surveys of veterans with SCI/D, medical record reviews of current smokers, and telephone interviews with SCI/D providers.
SETTING: Six Veterans Health Administration facilities with SCI centers and one SCI clinic.
PARTICIPANTS: Survey data were analyzed for 1210 veterans, 256 medical records were reviewed, and 15 providers served as key informants.
INTERVENTIONS: Observational study.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Veterans self-reported smoking status, quit attempts, methods and care received, motivation for smoking, and health care conditions. Medical record review and informant interviews examined the tobacco cessation care provided.
RESULTS: Whereas 22% of the respondents were current smokers; 51% were past smokers. Current smokers more often reported respiratory illnesses and/or symptoms, alcohol use, pain, and depression than past or never smokers, and approximately half made quit attempts in the past year. Smokers received referral to counseling (57%) and/or prescription for medication/nicotine replacement (23%). Key informants identified difficulty of providing follow-up and patients' unwillingness to consider quitting as barriers.
CONCLUSION: Veterans with SCi/D who smoke also had other health problems. Providers offer counseling and medication, but often have difficulty following patients to arrange/provide support. Identifying other support methods such as telehealth, considering the use of combination cessation therapies, and addressing other health concerns (e.g., depression) may affect tobacco cessation in this population.

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