Objective: The approach and credibility of future physicians and nurses as treatment providers for smoking- and tobacco-related diseases may be influenced by their smoking habits. We compared smoking habits among medical and nursing students, and examined whether these habits changed during the course of education for each cohort.
Method: Over 1,100 medical and nursing students from a university were surveyed in year 2000 using a questionnaire that included the Fagerstrom test for nicotine dependence (FTND).
Results: A total of 397 medical students and 126 nursing students completed the survey. Significantly fewer medical students (3.3%) smoked compared to nursing students (13.5%). Also, significantly more nursing students were former smokers (17.8%) than medical students (9.8%). The severity of nicotine dependence, as indicated by the total FTND score as well as scores on five of the six items on the FTND, was significantly lower among medical students compared to nursing students. Smoking or quit rates did not differ across class years in both groups; however, unlike nursing students, time since quitting significantly differed across class years for medical students. Although smoking habits appear to change little during the course of education for both medical and nursing students, many smokers may have quit just prior to entering medical school but not nursing school.
Conclusions: The findings confirm the continuing decline in smoking among medical students in the United States; however, increased efforts to promote tobacco education and intervention among nursing students seem necessary. Nevertheless, both groups appear to have the potential to be credible advisors to patients and public regarding smoking cessation.