40% Of Health Care Workers Still Smoke Cigarettes In China

china cigarettes

Photo: scary toy clown on www.flickr.com

Everyone knows that China has a huge problem with smoking, and I would guess that many of my readers already know, from first-hand experience, that the health care profession and hospitals are not immune. Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to see some numbers (courtesy of Caixin):

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

[Tobacco expert] 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 per cent 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.

Headline number here is 40%. I’m not sure whether that is higher or lower than my expectations. Either way, it’s still way too high. After reading that statistic, I wondered what the comparable numbers were in other countries. Since it’s Friday, and I’m way too lazy to do thorough research, I jumped on the first stats I could find, which were quite old.

From the U.S. CDC in 1993:

Preliminary data indicate that a maximum of 10% of physicians smoke in Australia, Canada, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States; in contrast, at least 40% of physicians in France, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Turkey are smokers.

Interesting. That would compare to about 60% in China at that time, although since China is a developing country, I’m not sure that would be a fair comparison. I assume that the current data for Western Europe and Japan are much lower than was the case in ’93.

I also came across an interesting 2003 study in Ecuador, which found that over 30% of physicians were smokers. This was apparently higher than anywhere else in Latin America at the time, yet still much lower than the comparable China stat.

I’m sure there’s lots of other data out there Mr. Google could tell us about, but I suspect that the general conclusion that China’s smoking problem is much higher than many other parts of the world holds up.

But that 40% figure is not the item that bothered me the most. I’m even more troubled that: 1) so many hospitals out there are still allowing smoking on the premises; and 2) that education on this issue is still so backward. Even if one physician out there believes that smoking is efficacious or that stopping will lead to cancer, well, that represents some sort of institutional failure for medical education. Yikes.

It takes a long time for attitudes to change, but we know from the experience of other countries that government action can be very effective in reducing smoking. Hint hint, government. Health care workers are a good place to start. I can’t imagine the signal it sends to young people when they see their doctor smoking.

© Stan for China Hearsay, 2012. | Permalink [No comment [Add to del.icio.us
Post tags: cigarettes, health care, tobacco

Read more posts on China Hearsay »

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.