Thorax 54:70-78 doi:10.1136/thx.54.1.70
  • Occasional review

Teaching medical students about tobacco

  1. Robyn Richmond
  1. School of Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

      There are around 1.1 thousand million smokers in the world which is approximately one third of the global population who are aged 15 years and over (47% of men and 12% of women).1 Most smokers live in developing countries (800 million) and most are male (700 million).1 While smoking rates have decreased in developed countries over the last 13 years, there has been a corresponding 50% increase in smoking rates in developing countries.2

      The most important determinant of human health trends is the increase in tobacco related mortality and disability. Tobacco related deaths have been projected to increase from 3.0 million in 1990 to 8.4 million in 2020, which will make tobacco the largest single health problem at this time.3 There are 80–90% of deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease attributed to tobacco, and smokers have six times the risk of contracting this disease compared with smokers; similarly, 80–85% of lung cancer deaths are attributed to tobacco use, with smokers having 10 times the risk compared with non-smokers.4-6

      National and international responses to the public health problem of tobacco therefore need to be intensified. Primary care physicians have a vital role to play in advising patients to stop smoking as most smokers visit their doctor.7-9 Studies have shown that very brief advice from the doctor yields one year quit rates of 5–10%,10-12 and interventions that are more comprehensive, including follow up sessions, produce abstinence rates of 20–36%.13-15

      Another important way to control tobacco use is to encourage medical schools to teach about tobacco issues in the curriculum. It is vital that medical students, the future medical practitioners, have adequate knowledge of smoking related diseases and skills in smoking cessation. The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on medical students’ …