November 6, 2012 / NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – The number of smokers lighting up on hospital grounds has fallen about seven percentage points since 1995, according to a new study.
“It is encouraging that there has been improvement, but it’s discouraging that the nicotine replacement therapy has not been able to put more of a dent into this,” said the study’s lead author Susan Regan, an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The findings reflect the experience of Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, where past research found that 25 percent of hospitalized smokers reported smoking on the grounds in 1995.
In the new study, which surveyed patients who smoked and were referred to the hospital’s tobacco treatment program between 2007 to 2010, the researchers found that the number of smokers lighting up on hospital grounds during their entire stay fell to 18.4 percent.
One explanation for the decline, according to the researchers, is the increased use of nicotine replacement therapy patches, lozenges, gum and inhalers.
They write in the Archives of Internal Medicine that the use of nicotine replacement therapy at the hospital increased more than twelve-fold from 1995 to 2010.
However, they cannot say for certain that the therapy is the reason for the decline.
For example, the new study only included patients in the hospital’s tobacco treatment program while the previous study included all patients who smoked. The researchers write that those who refused to take part in the program may have been more likely to sneak a smoke.