Science and Health

Smoking Rates For Registered Nurses Drop

A study on healthcare professionals saw RNs smoking less than ever, but LPN smoking rates are still high.

Smoking Rates For Registered Nurses Drop
Wikimedia Commmons / Paolo Neo

Smoking rates in the U.S. are at historic lows, and that includes a group whose smoking tends to raise eyebrows: nurses.

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says smoking rates among healthcare professionals plummeted over the last half-decade, with registered nurses making up the bulk of the change.

The study's principal investigator said, "This decline is so important, not just for the health status of nurses but because studies continue to show that smoking by health care professionals sends a mixed message to patients." (Via University of California, Los Angeles)

The study shows smoking rates among healthcare professionals have moved in the right direction over the past few years after stalling in the mid-2000s. Doctors continue to have an extremely low smoking rate, at around 1 in 50.

It's quite a turnaround from the old days of Camel smoking ads touting use by doctors. But it's not all good news for healthcare workers. (Via YouTube / PublicDomainMoviesYT / R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.)

While registered nurses have cut their smoking rates, licensed practical nurses — a job that requires less education — actually smoked even more, becoming more likely to smoke than the general public.

Of course, the fact that nurses smoke isn't a new finding. Initiatives like Tobacco Free Nurses are already working to lower those numbers.

But the study's co-author told NurseZone those efforts must show some understanding. "Nurses are human, with the same vulnerability as others ... That's why providing non-judgmental support to nurses who want to quit is so important. They may already feel some guilt from the 'Nurses should know better' mindset that many people have."

Healthcare workers say nurses who are able to quit may have better success with patients: a nurse who quit successfully may be better able to connect with a patient who smokes than a nurse who never took up the habit.