Survey Takes Stock Of Docs Who Smoke
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01 June 2010
By Pushpa Narayan
At a time when third hand smoke a combination of toxic gases and particles clinging to smokers’ hair and clothing long after smoking is being seen as a potential health threat, a group of oncologists kicked off a survey on Monday to count the number of doctors who smoke. The study, which will also show the reasons why they aren’t able to stub the butt, will be ready by July 1, celebrated as Doctor’s Day in the country.
"Unlike common people, doctors have access to information. They know smoking is injurious to them and many others," says Dr CS Mani, surgical oncologist, Madras Cancer Care Foundation. "Yet, we see doctors puffing away at medical education programmes and public health meetings. In fact, I once saw a neurologist posting a picture of himself with a cigarette while campaigning for a post in the neurology association. He won the elections that year. In a way, doctors are no different from patients," he says.
The group is planning a questionnaire-model study among peers that would be distributed to doctors in the city. While there are no statistics on the number of doctors who smoke in India, studies done abroad show that such "thirdhand" smoking could have an adverse impact on others.
"It has been shown that even cushions and carpeting carry toxic substances long after the smoker has left the room," says Dr TN Ravishankar, state wing secretary of the Indian Medical Association. "When they are away from patients, doctors may smoke. It could be outside the hospital or behind the wards. They think it is okay because the second–hand smoke isn’t getting to their patients. The third–hand smoke may not be visible, but you can smell it. And it’s harmful," he says.
A UK–based study published in the Lancet shows how smoking doctors and their wives died early compared to non–smokers. "Besides harming doctors and their families, they could be a threat to their patients. We have been constantly campaigning against smoking in all meetings," says Dr Ravishankar. Most doctors who smoke agree that they know smoking is injurious to health. "We are like anyone else. It’s an addiction. We all want to give up. Sometimes, I feel guilty to tell my patients not to smoke. Many smokers can sniff me out," says a senior cardiologist, who does not want to be named. The survey will collect data and views from doctors like him in the city on telephone. "We hope to bring about a new level of awareness," says Dr Mani.