INTRODUCTION: We report on physicians' beliefs, confidence and clinical practice relative to the provision of smoking cessation interventions in northwestern (NW) Ontario, where tobacco use and tobacco-related disease prevalence are high and smoking cessation services are scarce.METHODS: Physicians working at the 12 rural hospitals in NW Ontario were eligible for inclusion in the study. Survey items included clinical practices based on the "5 A's" protocol for tobacco intervention, and beliefs about, confidence in, and barriers and facilitators to intervention.RESULTS: Physicians from 8 of the 12 hospitals responded. Almost all (> 91%) reported positive beliefs about providing smoking cessation interventions and were confident intervening. Relative to the 5 A's protocol for tobacco intervention, 100% of respondents ask, advise, assess and assist patients to quit smoking, and 89% arrange follow-up. The most frequent methods of assistance included pharmacotherapy, suggestions of specific actions to make it easier to quit and recommendations for alternatives to tobacco use. The most frequent barrier to intervention was lack of time.DISCUSSION: Based on respondents' positive beliefs, confidence and current clinical practice relative to tobacco interventions, physicians in NW Ontario seem well positioned to play a key role in helping to reduce the high rates of tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases by providing smoking cessation interventions to patients who have been admitted to hospital.