GPs may be missing out on QOF points by failing to ask patients if they are regular shisha smokers, experts have warned.
In an editorial written for February's issue of the British Journal of General Practice, researchers at Imperial College London said waterpipe smoking is a ‘growing health concern' and should be tackled by GPs asking about consumption during consultations.
They said previous studies have shown around 7% of white students are regular shisha smokers, and over 30% of Arab students - and it can yield 80% more nicotine, and 80% times more carbon dioxide, than regular cigarettes.
Author Dr Fiona Hamilton, senior clinical adviser at Imperial College London, said: ‘The electronic medical record includes templates which prompt primary care clinicians to ask about cigarette smoking, or other tobacco use, and to provide advice to smokers.'
‘However, many shisha smokers do not believe they are smoking tobacco and so may not reveal their shisha use.'
‘The gross underestimation of tobacco users has implications for a general practice's QOF points but, more importantly, the opportunity to give smoking cessation advice is lost.'
Dr Alex Bobak, a GP in Wandsworth and smoking cessation adviser at Wandsworth PCT, said that most GPs would not be asking about shisha smoking, but that it was crucial they did.
He said: ‘It counts as smoking. They are just as eligible to be helped, including referral to stop smoking services, as anyone smoking the average Marlboro.'