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Medical students’ knowledge of smoking
  1. E F BOWEN,
  2. C F J RAYNER
  1. Chest Clinic, St George’s Hospital
  2. London SW17 0QT, UK

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We read with interest the editorial and review on medical students’ attitudes and knowledge of smoking in the January issue ofThorax.1 2 We carried out a survey on a cross section of

NHS staff including regional specialist registrars in respiratory medicine.3 The aim of this survey was to assess staff smoking habits and knowledge of the harmful and addictive effects of cigarette smoking. Respondents were questioned about their smoking habits, attitudes to smoking, knowledge on the harmful and addictive effects of smoking, and smoking advertising. The response rate was 62%; 68% of respondents were female and 53% were non-smokers, 27% smokers, and 20% ex-smokers. Nurses made up 44% of the current smokers. Eighty eight percent felt that a no-smoking policy should be policed and enforced at work. Knowledge of the harmful and addictive effects of cigarettes was poor. Only 13% of staff thought that all cigarettes were harmful and addictive. Most felt that only extra strong cigarettes were harmful or addictive and up to one quarter of respondents, including some doctors, were unable to answer the question. Of the 13 respiratory registrars only three thought that all cigarettes were harmful and addictive. Although the 13 specialist registrars were able to identify differences between tar and nicotine, only one associated harmful and addictive effects with all types of cigarettes.

Our survey suggests that the smoking habits of a cross section of NHS staff is similar to the general population and that knowledge of the harmful and addictive effects of cigarettes is poor. If our own staff have insufficient knowledge of the harmful and addictive effects of cigarettes and continue to smoke, what hope is there of educating patients to cease or refrain from smoking?

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