Fewer doctors smoking, but nurses still like a puff - study

  • 09/03/2018
About 90 percent of doctors aged 25 to 44 said they had never been regular smokers.
About 90 percent of doctors aged 25 to 44 said they had never been regular smokers. Photo credit: File

The number of New Zealand doctors smoking continues to decline, but psychiatric nurses still like a puff on their break, a study published in the NZ Medical Journal has shown.

Surveys of doctors from 1963 and 1972, and censuses up to 2013, show the number that are smoking is dropping - just 2.1 percent admitted to be regular smokers in 2013, down from 3.5 percent in 2006 and 5 percent in 1996.

The highest smokers by speciality were male gynaecologist and obstetricians (6.7 percent, their female counterparts registered 0 percent), and female surgeons (5.7 percent). Overall, counting both sexes, anaesthetists (1.2 percent) were the most likely not to smoke.

About 90 percent of doctors aged 25 to 44 said they had never been regular smokers and 85 percent of all doctors had never smoked at all.

Nurses, however, were more likely to puff away than their doctor counterparts. Eight percent said they were smokers, with that number rising to 10.8 percent aged 45-64 years old.

Breaking it down into specialities, psychiatric nurses were over-represented, with 16.8 percent smoking regularly, compared with occupational health nurses (3.8 percent) and public health and district nurses (6.3 percent).

The NZMJ study concludes that the overall trend is good and sets an excellent public example.

"The low and declining smoking prevalence among doctors and nurses is encouraging," the study concludes.

"These findings suggest that doctors are now a virtually smokefree population and nurses are well on the way to being the same, and to meet the 2025 smokefree target.

"Low smoking prevalence among health professionals, particularly doctors and nurses, may be particularly important as these groups are potential role models to the rest of the community for health-related behaviours."

However, the high number of psychiatric nurses still smoking needed to be addressed, as there seemed to be a "permissive culture" towards smoking in New Zealand mental healthcare facilities.

NZN