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A review of tobacco smoking and smoking cessation practices among physicians in China: 1987–2010
  1. Abu S Abdullah1,2,
  2. Feng Qiming1,
  3. Vivian Pun3,
  4. Frances A Stillman4,
  5. Jonathan M Samet5
  1. 1Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, Guangxi Medical University, Guangxi, China
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, Robert Stempel School of Public Health, Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA
  3. 3School of Public Health and Primary Care, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  4. 4Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  5. 5Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC, USC Institute for Global Health, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Abu S Abdullah, Robert Stempel School of Public Health, Florida International University, University Park, HLS 591, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199, USA; asm.abdullah{at}


Background Tobacco use by physicians represents a significant barrier in promoting smoking cessation through physician interventions. To assess the need for and nature of smoking cessation services among physicians in China, a detailed literature review was conducted.

Methods A literature review of studies published, in Chinese or in English, between 1987 and 2010, was carried out. The Medline, PubMed and Wanfang Data (a Chinese literature search database) electronic databases were searched for published studies.

Results It was found that the overall current smoking prevalence among Chinese physicians ranged from 14% to 64% (men: 26% to 61%; women: 0% to 19%). There were significant gender differences in the smoking prevalence across studies with men smoking more than women. Though inconsistent, there were variations in smoking rates by professional posts and medical specialty. The quit smoking rates ranged from 5% to 14% across studies, with a higher rate among female physicians. Asking about smoking status or advising patients to quit smoking was not common practice among the physicians.

Conclusions The results of this review suggest that while smoking habits of Chinese physicians vary among studies and across physicians in different specialties; prevalence rates tend to be higher than in physicians in the developed countries. Quitting rates were low among Chinese physicians, and the delivery of advice on quitting smoking was not common across the studies. Strategies to improve Chinese physicians' engagement in smoking cessation should address multiple factors including tobacco use and quitting practices among the physicians, their training needs and awareness of their professional responsibility with a healthcare system change approach.

  • Tobacco smoking
  • medical profession
  • Chinese physicians
  • smoking cessation
  • primary healthcare
  • cessation
  • prevention
  • addiction
  • carcinogens
  • global health
  • surveillance and monitoring
  • environmental tobacco smoke
  • evaluation
  • young adults
  • qualitative study
  • international
  • smoking caused disease
  • secondhand smoke
  • litigation

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  • Funding This work was supported by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institute of Health (NIH) through the Institute for Global Tobacco Control, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; grant number 5RO1TW007949.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement We plan to share our research data with appropriate institutional approval.