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In China, Many Doctors, Nurses Smoke: Study

Posted on July 23, 2012

BEIJING (Caixin Online) — A large proportion of Chinese health-care workers are smokers, and some regularly smoke in front of patients, a leading health expert said at a recent tobacco-related forum.

The finding led experts to say such practices in the medical profession are sending an inconsistent message to the public about the dangers of smoking.

China ranks first globally in terms of the proportion of smokers among male health-care workers, which accounted for 40%, tobacco expert Wang Chen said Monday.

He added many health-care workers have a low awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco use and dependence, in addition to existing tobacco-prevention programs.

“Medical workers should set a good example to the public by being non-smokers to promote a healthful image,” said Wang, director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Tobacco or Health. “But many fail to do it.”

Although 40% of male health workers smoked in 2010, the figure represented a decrease from previous years. Around 56% of male health-care workers were smokers in 1984, 60% in 1996 and 57% in 2002.

China is the largest tobacco producer and consumer in the world. In 2011, China had 300 million smokers and 1 million people died of diseases linked to the habit, according to a report issued by Ministry of Health on May 30.

Wang added many physicians maintain a culture which condones smoking. For example, some receive cigarettes as gifts from patients.

Doctors also smoke in public places, offices and meeting rooms. Wang said 7% of doctors regularly smoked in front of patients.

Many medical workers are also grossly misinformed about tobacco and its effects, said Wang.

In some instances, medical workers not only deny the hazards of tobacco use to health, but believe it is beneficial. Wang said some medical workers believe people who stop smoking will suffer from lung cancer. See this report at Caixin Online.