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Assessment of Tobacco Habits, Attitudes, and Education Among Medical Students in the United States and Italy: A Cross-sectional Survey

  • Armstrong, Grayson W. (Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary/Harvard Medical School) ;
  • Veronese, Giacomo (Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University of Bologna) ;
  • George, Paul F. (The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University) ;
  • Montroni, Isacco (Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University of Bologna) ;
  • Ugolini, Giampaolo (Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences, University of Bologna)
  • Received : 2015.11.10
  • Accepted : 2017.04.03
  • Published : 2017.05.31

Abstract

Objectives: Medical students represent a primary target for tobacco cessation training. This study assessed the prevalence of medical students' tobacco use, attitudes, clinical skills, and tobacco-related curricula in two countries, the US and Italy, with known baseline disparities in hopes of identifying potential corrective interventions. Methods: From September to December 2013, medical students enrolled at the University of Bologna and at Brown University were recruited via email to answer survey questions assessing the prevalence of medical students' tobacco use, attitudes and clinical skills related to patients' smoking, and elements of medical school curricula related to tobacco use. Results: Of the 449 medical students enrolled at Brown and the 1426 enrolled at Bologna, 174 Brown students (38.7%) and 527 Bologna students (36.9%) participated in this study. Italian students were more likely to smoke (29.5% vs. 6.1%; p<0.001) and less likely to receive smoking cessation training (9.4% vs. 80.3%; p<0.001) than their American counterparts, even though the majority of students in both countries desired smoking cessation training (98.6% at Brown, 85.4% at Bologna; p<0.001). Additionally, negative beliefs regarding tobacco usage, the absence of formal training in smoking cessation counseling, and a negative interest in receiving specific training on smoking cessation were associated with a higher risk of not investigating a patient's smoking status during a routine history and not offering tobacco cessation treatment to patients. Conclusions: Medical curricula on tobacco-related health hazards and on smoking cessation should be mandatory in order to reduce smoking among medical students, physicians, and patients, thereby improving tobacco-related global health.

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