Smoking: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Smoking: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

By CareerSmart Learning Contributor, as published by Healthcare Hot Spot

From a young age, we are taught that smoking causes cancer and death.  So while any seven-year-old knows that smoking is unhealthy, we still live in the reality where many healthcare professionals continue to smoke.

Unlike children who are taught the simple basics of smoking’s downsides, nurses and other healthcare professionals are taught that smoking is a risk factor for many different cancers, ranging from lung to bladder, in addition to other chronic diseases like cataracts, coronary heart disease, and diabetes.1

Compared to the 20% of employed adults who smoke, 4% of physicians and 15% of nurses continue to smoke. While there may be many personal reasons why healthcare professionals continue to smoke2 – even after knowing the risks – their status as a smoker should not impact the care that their patients receive regarding smoking health risks and cessation. Sadly, the data says otherwise:

  1. More physicians who smoke view smoking as less harmful than physicians who do not smoke.  In turn, physicians who smoke are less inclined to educate patients about the harmful effects of smoking because of their personal bias of smoking being less harmful.
  2. Physicians who smoke are less likely to view smoking cessation as a health priority than physicians who do not smoke. 3  When smoking is viewed as less harmful, there is less of a need to educate patients about smoking cessation and encourage healthier habits.
  3. People are more likely to quit smoking when educated or encouraged by a medical professional. 4 Healthcare professionals have a profound ability to impact patients’ lives through many avenues and it is up to the healthcare professional to help provide that impact.

Smoking is undeniably harmful to a person’s health.  Regardless of whether a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional smokes, they still need to have the ability to empathize, educate, and counsel their patients to lead healthier lives.

For more on this topic, check out the CareerSmart course on Nicotine Dependence.


You may also be interested in:

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (2016).  Smoking and Tobacco Use.  Retrieved from

2Bass, K. & McGenney, K.  (2012, October 3).  U.S. Physicians Set Good Health Example. Gallup.  Retrieved from

3Cattaruzza, M.S. & West, R.  (2013).  Why do doctors and medical students smoke when they know how harmful it is?.  Journal of Public Health, 23 (2).  Retrieved from

4Smith, D.R. and Leggat, P.A.  (2007, June 20).  An international review of tobacco smoking in the medical profession: 1974-2004.  BMC Public Health.  Retrieved from

October 21, 2020

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