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Fewer than 1 in 10 Nurses Now Smoke

That's a steep decline, but the numbers are still troubling, researchers say

MONDAY, Nov. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Like Americans in general, fewer U.S. nurses are smoking than ever, but the habit's effects on those who do are still devastating, according to a new study.

The UCLA School of Nursing study found that the rate of smoking among nurses has fallen from 33.2 percent in 1976 to 8.4 percent in 2003. However, the death rate of those who do or did smoke is still double that of nonsmokers, according to the findings, published in the November/December edition of Nursing Research.

"Nurses witness firsthand how smoking devastates the health of their patients with cancer and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases," principal investigator Linda Sarna, a professor at the UCLA School of Nursing, said in a news release issued by the university. "Yet nurses struggle with nicotine addiction like the rest of the 45 million smokers in America. We are concerned that nurses who smoke may be less apt to support tobacco-control programs or encourage their patients to quit."

The researchers' findings come from an historic study on womens health launched at Brigham and Womens Hospital in the mid-1970s. The study is based on surveys completed every two years by 237,648 female registered nurses about their health.

"Quitting smoking made a big difference in enhancing longevity, especially among nurses in their late 70s," Sarna said. "Death rates among former smokers that age were 1.5 times higher than those of nonsmokers, while current smokers were 2.3 times more likely to have died by that age than nurses who never smoked."

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SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, news release, Nov. 13, 2008

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