Female hospital workers smoke more than other women

A questionnaire sent in by 1,984 hospital employees reveals that 27.1% of male staff and 24.8% of female staff are active smokers.

Female hospital staff tend to smoke more than the average Maltese woman, a study published in the Malta Medical Journal shows.

A questionnaire sent in by 1,984 hospital employees reveals that 27.1% of male staff and 24.8% of female staff are active smokers.

In a European Health Interview Survey carried out on the general population in 2008, 25.9% admitted to being daily or occasional smokers. These included 31% of men and 21% of women.

The only difference between the two studies is that while males exceed female smokers by 10% in the general population, in hospital female smokers only lag behind males by 2.3%.

The survey reveals that while 23.6% of nurses smoke, only 10.4% of doctors do so. The percentage of smokers increases to 31.2% among other hospital employees who are neither doctors nor nurses. Among those aged 18 to 25, 30% smoke.

Malta still has a lower smoking rate than a number of other countries.

In Italy, the rate of smokers among health professionals is twice the rate of smoking in the general population (44%). A high prevalence rate was also estimated in workers in a Portuguese hospital (40.5%), which contrasts with the low population prevalence of 20.9%.

The study for Malta shows that the prevalence of smoking among hospital staff mirrors that of the general population. 22.2% of smokers refrain from smoking in hospital. The highest percentage of smokers was in the youngest age group (18-25 years).

Interestingly 25.7% of current non-smokers had previously smoked. The majority of these had successfully stopped more than 10 years ago, the greatest incentive being health reasons.

Almost half (43.8%) of the surveyed population find difficulty in refraining from smoking in forbidden areas and a further 43.3% would find it most difficult to give up their first cigarette of the day.

A quarter of these smokers (23.6%) require their initial cigarette in the first 15 minutes after waking up. However, 71.2% will refrain from smoking in bed if unwell.

Willingess to quit smoking appears to be high at 46.2% of the total smoker population, 30.2% having attempted to quit at least once, closely followed by 32.6% who have had two to five attempts. 7.4% have tried to quit more than five times.

According to the authors of the study this indicates that further initiatives are required to lessen the number of health professionals who smoke, as these should “ideally be role models for patients, and hence be able to effectively support patients in quitting smoking”.

The study controversially suggests denying smokers their cigarette break.

“The fact that smokers are often granted unofficial cigarette breaks may serve as a deterrent to smoking cessation, in that smokers have more breaks from work than do their non-smoking counterparts”.

There are only three available areas for smoking within the hospital grounds where smokers congregate to smoke.

The study suggests that this may have a psychological affect on smokers who “may view themselves as a rebel clan “who defy hospital authorities that are attempting to decrease the number of smokers within the hospital”.

The study, entitled ‘barriers to implement a smoke free hospital. What action should be taken” was written by Health Promotion Director Charmaine Gauci, Joelle Azzopardi, Sarah De Giovanni, Luisa Farrugia, Neville Calleja, Anne Buttigieg and Stephen Montefort.

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