Cigarette smoking among physicians, dentists, and nurses

Garfinkel, Lawrence; Stellman, Steven D.

Smoking habits of Americans have changed substantially over the past several decades, in large part because of the increasing knowledge and publicity regarding health hazards of tobacco consumption. It is to be expected that physicians and other health professionals would be in the vanguard of smoking reduction, and previous studies show that whereas in the 1950s more than 50 percent of physicians smoked, by 1975 the prevalence had dropped to about 20 percent. We present here a portrait of smoking habits in 11,324 physicians, 2,892 dentists, and 44,568 nurses enrolled in Cancer Prevention Study II, a cohort study of 1.2 million US men and women initially surveyed in 1982. Our data show, for example, that 16.7 percent of physicians in this sample were current smokers. Smoking prevalence was slightly lower in dentists (14.1 percent) but considerably greater in nurses (23.6 percent of female nurses and 41.3 percent of male nurses). Male doctors who continue to smoke consume more cigarettes per day than female doctors who are current smokers. These data are generally consistent with population studies, and reinforce the notion that health professionals should be exemplars with respect to health behaviors such as smoking.


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Also Published In

CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians

More About This Work

Academic Units
Published Here
November 11, 2014


Cancer Prevention Study II is one of the largest cohort studies on record. Many occupations are represented within the 1.2 million participants, enabling detailed analysis of health behaviors in large numbers of individuals in specific professions. This analysis was of particular interest to the editors of CA - A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a major professional organ of the American Cancer Society, which distributes the journal to thousands of clinicians across the US and worldwide. The article was meant to encourage continued progress in reducing smoking among health practitioners. It is remarkable that even in 1982 physicians were less likely to smoke than the general population of the 2010s.