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BACKGROUND: Smoking cessation clinical practice guidelines are based on randomised clinical trials reporting outcomes in persons who participate in these studies. However, many practitioners are sceptical about the effectiveness of these recommendations when applied to the general population in everyday routine consultation. AIM: To evaluate the results of a comprehensive smoking cessation programme in routine primary care practice. METHOD: All smokers consulting in 10 general practices during one year participated in a non-randomised controlled trial. The percentages of subjects in the intervention (n = 1203, seven practices) and control (n = 565, three practices) groups who reported sustained abstinence between six and 12 months follow-up and were validated biochemically were compared. The effect of the programme was adjusted to baseline differences in both groups by multiple logistic regression analyses. RESULTS: The programme resulted in an increase of five percentage points (95% CI = 3.1%-6.8%) in the validated and sustained one-year abstinence probability, with 7.1% for all of the intervention practices (adjusted OR = 3.7, 95% CI = 2.4-5.7). CONCLUSION: Programmes that combine advice to stop smoking to all smokers attending general practices with the offering of support, follow-up, and nicotine patches to those willing to stop are feasible and effective in routine practice, as primary care clinicians need only identify 20 smokers to get one additional success attributable to the programme.