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Background: This article examines the prevalence of smoking among general practice patients and assesses their stage of readiness to quit. Method: Descriptive study involving eight general practice registrars working in teaching practices in metropolitan Sydney (New South Wales) who surveyed 1069 consecutive patients over 16 years of age to determine their smoking status; and for smokers, their stage of readiness to stop smoking. Results: Of these patients 375 (35%) were current smokers, with smoking more common among men (40%) than women (33%). Proportions of smokers in each stage of change were: 137 in precontemplation (36.5%), 158 in contemplation (42%) and 79 in preparation (21%). The majority of patients in preparation (67%) and contemplation (53%) were assessed as willing to further discuss their smoking, whereas only 16% of those in the contemplation stage were willing. Discussion: Smoking rates among general practice patients were higher than in community samples. Most of the smokers were either contemplating or preparing to quit, and the majority of smokers in these groups were willing to receive advice about smoking cessation.