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When it comes to smoking, female nurses behave similarly to women in general, according to a recent analysis of data from the Nurses' Health Study. For example, most younger nurses who smoke got hooked before entering the nursing profession, a finding reflected among women in general, who tend to begin smoking at a younger age. Says lead investigator Linda Sarna, DNSc, "being a nurse did not make these women immune to nicotine addiction."


According to the most recent data, the smoking rate among RNs nationwide is about 12%. The smoking rate among nurses in the Nurses' Health Study declined from 33% to 8% in the 27-year study period (1976 to 2003), but those who smoke averaged about 15 cigarettes per day-more than half a pack.


Analyzing mortality data, researchers found that smokers were over twice as likely to have died by their late 70s than nurses who'd never smoked. Nurses who'd quit improved their longevity, although the death rate for former smokers in that age-group was 1.5 times higher than for those who'd never smoked.


Noting the "devastating cost" of smoking to the nursing profession, the researchers point to an "urgent need for further research to encourage continued smoking cessation efforts for nursing professionals."


The Nurses' Health Study is based on surveys completed every 2 years by 237,648 female RNs, the largest group of healthcare professionals in the country.


Sources: Sarna L, Bialous SA, Jun HJ, Wewers ME, Cooley ME, Feskanich D. Smoking trends in the Nurses' Health Study (1976-2003). Nurs Res. 2008;57(6):374-382; Study reveals smoking's effect on nurses' health, death rates, UCLA Healthcare, http:www.newswise.com/p/articles/view/546384.

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