Despite the fact that cigarette smoking is a well known risk factor for many ocular diseases, very little data exist regarding optometrists' interventions in smoking cessation counselling with their patients. The aim of this study was to evaluate the practices, perceptions and educational needs of Québec optometrists regarding smoking cessation counselling.
A self-administered questionnaire pertaining to smoking cessation counselling practices was mailed to 600 optometrists licensed in Québec.
The response rate was 51 per cent. The majority (90 per cent) of respondents (n = 288) reported having the required knowledge of ocular diseases related to smoking. Most respondents recognised that optometrists should ask their patients if they smoke (73 per cent), should advise their smoking patients to stop smoking (65 per cent) and should be cognisant of the resources available that can support patients in their efforts to quit smoking (65 per cent). Few responders asked their patients on a regular basis if they indeed smoked (16 per cent) or advised them to stop, if such was the case (29 per cent). Moreover, only eight per cent of respondents knew the resources toward which they should direct their patients who wish to stop smoking. Only eight per cent of respondents perceived themselves as being competent to offer counselling. For 72 per cent of the respondents, the main obstacle to smoking cessation counselling was the lack of knowledge about counselling. Approximately half (48 per cent) of respondents are interested in acquiring competencies in smoking cessation counselling.
Based on the results of the present study, optometrists in Québec are well aware of the effects of smoking on ocular health and the importance of educating their patients; however, they might not possess the required skills to assist their patients in quitting smoking. Because they have not received sufficient training, optometrists in Québec remain an untapped resource in tobacco cessation counselling.