Clinical challenges facing patient participation in cardiac rehabilitation: cigarette smoking

Author Department

Cardiology; Medicine

Document Type

Article, Peer-reviewed

Publication Date



Introduction: Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) is highly effective at reducing morbidity and mortality. However, CR is underutilized, and adherence remains challenging. In no group is CR attendance more challenging than among patients who smoke. Despite being more likely to be referred to CR they are less likely to enroll, and much more likely to drop out. CR programs generally do not optimally engage and treat those who smoke, but this population is critical to engage given the high-risk nature of continued smoking in those with cardiovascular disease.

Areas covered: This review covers four areas relating to CR in those who smoke. First, we review the evidence of the association between smoking and lack of participation in CR. Second, we examine how smoking has historically been identified in this population and propose objective screening measures for all patients. Third, we discuss optimal treatment of smoking within CR. Fourth, we review select populations within those who smoke (those with lower-socioeconomic status, females) that require additional research and attention.

Expert opinion: Smoking poses a challenge on multiple fronts, being a significant predictor of future morbidity and mortality as well as being strongly associated with not completing the secondary prevention program (CR) that could benefit those who smoke the most.

Keywords: Adherence; Cardiac rehabilitation; Tobacco; Treatment; participation; smoking.