PURPOSE: Tobacco use in developing countries is reaching epidemic proportions. Past studies suggest that despite a wealth of information about the adverse health effects of tobacco use, significant numbers of health professionals in many countries continue to smoke. The purpose of this study was to investigate the current prevalence of tobacco use and related attitudes and education in a sample of Indian medical students.
METHODS: Cross-sectional survey study conducted over 3 months at a single medical school in Hyderabad, India. A survey instrument consisting of 27 questions was administered to students on paper; participation was voluntary and responses were anonymous.
RESULTS: Out of a total of 208 respondents (47% male, 53% female), 42.3% were in the first year of medical school, with 35.6%, 0.5%, 19.7%, and 1.9% representation from the second through fifth year classes, respectively. Of the entire cohort, 13.5% reported current use of tobacco products (25.5% of males vs only 2.7% of females, p ≤; 0.001), while 22% (42.1% of males vs 4.5% of females, p ≤; 0.001) reported ever experimenting with tobacco products. Exposure to tobacco use in the home was reported by 37.1% for smoked tobacco and 11% for smokeless forms. 85% and 47.6% of the respondents reported knowing doctors/medical students who smoke or use smokeless tobacco, respectively. Lastly, 63% recalled having received no formal education about tobacco use in medical college.
CONCLUSION: Although the overall prevalence of current tobacco use among this cohort of Indian medical students was relatively low, a significantly higher proportion of males than females reported use. Tobacco use by other medical students and/or practicing physicians was perceived as very common, and many respondents also had been exposed to tobacco use at home.
CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: These results highlight the continuing need to improve the education of health professionals in India (especially the males) about the dangers of tobacco use, so that they can not only advise and educate their patients but also serve as role models through their own behavior.
DISCLOSURE: Kalpalatha Guntupalli, No Financial Disclosure Information; No Product/Research Disclosure Information