Brief interventions have a modest but meaningful effect on promoting smoking cessation and reducing excessive alcohol consumption. Guidelines recommend offering such advice opportunistically and regularly but incentives vary between the two behaviours.
To use representative data from the perspective of patients to compare the prevalence and characteristics of people who smoke or drink excessively and who receive a brief intervention.
Data was from a representative sample of 15 252 adults from household surveys in England.
Recall of brief interventions on smoking and alcohol use, sociodemographic information, and smoking and alcohol consumption patterns were assessed among smokers and those who drink excessively (AUDIT score of ≥8), who visited their GP surgery in the previous year.
Of 1775 smokers, 50.4% recalled receiving brief advice on smoking in the previous year. Smokers receiving advice compared with those who did not were more likely to be older (odds ratio [OR] 17-year increments 1.19, 95% confidence interval [CI] =1.06 to 1.34), female (OR 1.35, 95% CI =1.10 to 1.65), have a disability (OR 1.44, 95% CI = 1.11 to 1.88), have made more quit attempts in the previous year (compared with no attempts: one attempt, OR 1.65, 95% CI = 1.32 to 2.08; ≥2 attempts, OR 2.02, 95% CI =1.49 to 2.74), and have greater nicotine dependence (OR 1.17, 95% CI =1.05 to 1.31) but were less likely to have no post-16 qualifications (OR 0.81, 95% CI = 0.66 to 1.00). Of 1110 people drinking excessively, 6.5% recalled receiving advice in their GP surgery on their alcohol consumption in the previous year. Those receiving advice compared with those who did not had higher AUDIT scores (OR 1.17, 95% CI =1.12 to 1.23) and were less likely to be female (OR 0.44, 95% CI = 0.23 to 0.87).
Whereas approximately half of smokers in England visiting their GP in the past year report having received advice on cessation, <10% of those who drink excessively report having received advice on their alcohol consumption.