With 360 million smokers, China has more cigarette consumers than any other country — a smoking prevalence of 31 percent among the general population. Physicians can play a key role in encouraging smokers to quit, yet up to now, little has been known about Chinese physicians' attitudes and practices regarding smoking. In this first-of-its kind-study, researchers found that 23 percent of 3,552 hospital-based physicians surveyed were smokers, substantially higher than in the United States (3.3 percent), where the smoking prevalence in the general population is 20.9 percent, and the United Kingdom (6.8 percent), with 25 percent prevalence in the general population. This rate is also higher than in Japan (20.2 percent), where the smoking prevalence in the general population is 33.8 percent.
The findings are noteworthy because physicians who smoke are significantly less likely than their nonsmoking counterparts to advise their patients to quit smoking. As a result of this survey, the China Center for Disease Control has instituted an antismoking campaign that targets physicians and medical students and promotes smoke-free hospitals.
Michael Ong of UCLA; Elisa K. Tong of the University of California, Davis; Quan Gan and Teh-wei Hu of UC Berkeley; and Yuan Jiang, Yan Yang and Yi Nan of the National Tobacco Control Office of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing.
The research appears in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.