Abstract Background: Although tobacco smoking remains the largest preventable cause of mortality in Australia, resources to assist with cessation remain scarce. Research studies have demonstrated improved cessation rates with interventions such as counselling and pharmacotherapy,
but there is little information on success in routine clinical practice. Aims: To determine the outcome of a smoking cessation programme run in a routine hospital outpatient setting. Methods: A prospective audit of patients referred to an outpatient smoking cessation
programme by hospital specialists or general practitioners. The programme consisted of fortnightly counselling sessions, with nicotine replacement therapy when clinically indicated. Self-reported abstinence rates were determined by contacting patients by letter or telephone at 3 and 12 months.
Abstinence was confirmed, whenever possible, by measuring the expired carbon monoxide (CO) concentration. Results: Over 12 months, 226 new patients were seen through the programme. There was a correlation between the number of cigarettes smoked and the baseline Fagerstrom score
(r = 0.49, P < 0.001). Approximately 40% of subjects could not be contacted for follow up. At 3 months the self-reported abstinence rate was 31%, falling to 19% by 12 months. Measurement of expired CO concentrations proved that self-reported abstinence
was reliable. Conclusions: The abstinence rates achieved by our programme compared well with those previously reported in the literature, demonstrating the effectiveness of a smoking cessation programme run in routine clinical practice. There was an increasing relapse rate during
the period of follow up. (Intern Med J 2002; 32: 24–28)