OBJECTIVE: In 1991, the Victorian Smoking and Health Program introduced a simple intervention strategy for general practitioners that could be integrated conveniently and inexpensively into the routine care of patients who smoke. The aim of this study was to determine whether there had been a change over time in whether or not GPs advised their patients not to smoke. METHOD: The extent to which smokers remembered GPs talking to them about smoking was assessed in population-based surveys of adults in Victoria in 1990 (prior to the implementation of the intervention) and in 1992, 1994 and 1996. RESULTS: Over time there was a significant increase in the proportion of smokers who reported that their GP had provided them with help or information to stop smoking (chi 2 = 17.58, p < 0.001). In 1996, 9% of smokers said their doctor had advised them to contact Quit. CONCLUSION: Levels of recalled advice and provision of information regarding smoking cessation have increased by 10% over the past six years. However, nearly half the smokers in this study reported that they had been given inappropriate advice or no advice at all. IMPLICATIONS: A brief intervention by GPs, supplemented by appropriate referrals, has the potential to assist significant numbers of smokers to quit and may be more practical for GPs who are unable to personally provide all of the support smokers may need to quit.