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Good News: Health care professionals are smoking less

Harold Mandel's picture
A smoker

Smoking remains a major killer. Even with the flood of research to confirm how dangerous smoking really is, far too many people continue to smoke. Clearly, it helps to have health care professionals set a good example by not smoking themselves. Recent research shows there may be some progress in this area as less health care professionals smoke.

Smoking by health care professionals can serve as a barrier to tobacco interventions with patients, reports the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Studies from 2003 to 2006-2007 demonstrated no significant declines in smoking among health care professionals, with the highest prevalence being found among licensed practical nurses and the lowest prevalence among physicians. Data from 2010-2011 showed a more promising trend.

In a survey of health care professionals from 2010-2011, it was found that current smoking among health care professionals, except for licensed practical nurses, was lower than the general population. It was also observed that the majority had never smoked at all. This study to assess changes in smoking status among health care professionals was conducted by Linda Sarna, Ph.D., R.N., of the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues.

The researchers used publicly available data from self-respondents to the Tobacco Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey in order to compare smoking prevalences among health care professionals. The occupations studied included:

1: Physicians

2: Registered nurses

3: Licensed practical nurses

4: Pharmacists

5: Respiratory therapists

6: Dental hygienists.

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Smoking status was defined as being never smokers, former smokers, and current smokers.

Out of 2,975 health care professionals from the 2010-2011 survey data it was indicated that approximately 8 percent were current smokers, with a range from 2 percent among physicians to 25 percent among licensed practical nurses. The rate of current smoking among the general population has been found to be 16 percent. From 2003 to 2010-2011 there was a decline in prevalence of current smoking among this group of health care professionals. However, the only group which showed a significant decline in prevalence of current smoking from 2006-2007 to 2010-2011 and from 2003 to 2010-2011 was registered nurses, for which the change was from 11 percent to 7 percent, for a 36 percent decline.

It is felt that recent declines in smoking seen among health care professionals may be a reflection of the impact of national tobacco control policies and efforts which are focused on reducing smoking among registered nurses. Nevertheless, continued smoking and diminished quitting seen among licensed practical nurses remains a serious concern.

Smoking lead to a great deal of disease and disability, reports the CDC. Smoking causes many serious diseases, including

1: Cancer

2: Heart disease

3: Stroke

4: Lung diseases, including emphysema, bronchitis, and chronic airway obstruction

Statistics who that for every person who dies from a smoking-related disease, 20 more people suffer terribly with at least one serious illness from smoking. This is disturbing with tobacco seen as being the leading preventable cause of death. Tobacco use causes greater than 5 million deaths per year across the world. It has been projected based on current trends that by 2030 tobacco use will cause more than 8 million deaths annually.

Clearly, smoking remains a tragic problem in our society. Concerns about the smoking habits of health care professionals goes beyond just considerations of their personal well being. I have noticed when doctors and nurses are seen smoking, drinking too much and using illicit drugs far fewer people take their advice seriously and figure they are simply con artists who are in the health care racket for big profits.

Men, women and children alike are much more positively influenced by good advice from their health care professionals when they themselves set a good example. It is my advice that all doctors and nurses who want not just better health for themselves, but also better respect and compliance with their suggestions, work hard to try to stay away from smoking and other unhealthy lifestyle habits. The FDA has the right idea with graphic smoking warnings, as I have reported upon in a separate article for EmaxHealth.