Background Tobacco dependence is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, yet healthcare professionals are not adequately educated on how to help patients break the deadly cycle of tobacco dependence.

Objective To assess the content and extent of tobacco education in the curricula of acute care nurse practitioner programs in the United States.

Methods A survey with 13 multiple-choice items was distributed to the coordinators of 72 acute care nurse practitioner programs. The survey was replicated and modified from previous research on tobacco dependence curricula in undergraduate medical education.

Results Fifty programs (83%) responded to the survey. Overall, during an entire course of study, 70% of the respondents reported that only between 1 and 3 hours of content on tobacco dependence was covered. Seventy-eight percent reported that students were not required to teach smoking-cessation techniques to patients, and 94% did not provide opportunities for students to be certified as smoking-cessation counselors. Sixty percent reported that the national guidelines for smoking cessation were not used as a curriculum reference for tobacco content.

Conclusions The majority of acute care nurse practitioner programs include brief tobacco education. More in-depth coverage is required to reduce tobacco dependence. Acute care nurse practitioners are in a prime position to intervene with tobacco dependence, especially when patients are recovering from life-threatening events. National recommendations for core tobacco curricula and inclusion of tobacco questions on board examinations should be developed and implemented.

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