oa South African Family Practice - Tobacco and alcohol use among healthcare workers in three public hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa : original research

Volume 54, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2078-6190
  • E-ISSN: 2078-6204



Tobacco use is a risk factor for most of the leading causes of death in the world. Healthcare workers (HCWs) can play an important role in assisting patients to stop smoking, but this role is undermined if they themselves smoke. The study determined the prevalence of tobacco smoking and alcohol use among HCWs in public hospitals in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

In a cross-sectional study, 650 self-administered anonymous questionnaires (primary and secondary questionnaires) were administered to participants between December 2009 and June 2010. Six hundred and twenty primary questionnaires (on smoking) and 630 secondary questionnaires (on alcohol use) were returned, giving a response rate of 95% and 97% respectively. The Pearson chi-square test was used to test for statistical significance.
Eleven per cent of the participants were current smokers and 7.1% former smokers, while 27% of never-smokers were constantly exposed to second-hand smoke. Males were 13 times more likely to smoke than their female counterparts (P < 0.001). Never-smokers more frequently counselled their smoking patients to quit compared to former and current smokers (47.5%, 39.5% and 25.8% respectively). Alcohol use problems were reported by 22% of participants (P < 0.001). Current smokers were six times more likely to drink excessively than never-smokers (P < 0.001) and males were ten times more likely than females to drink excessively (P < 0.001).
The smoking rate among HCWs is still high, although lower than the national average of 21.4%. A large number of participants reported exposure to second-hand smoke and alcohol use problems. Less than half of the HCWs counselled smoking patients to quit smoking.

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