Smoking trends in the Nurses' Health Study (1976-2003)

Nurs Res. 2008 Nov-Dec;57(6):374-82. doi: 10.1097/NNR.0b013e31818bf38b.


Background: Smoking trends among nurses are important to monitor as smoking negatively affects their health and decreases their likelihood of providing cessation interventions to patients.

Objectives: The objective of the study was to describe the changes in smoking trends in the participants in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) cohorts over 27 years.

Methods: An analysis of biennial changes in smoking status and cigarette consumption within nine 5-year birth cohorts (1920-1924 to 1960-1964) and age-specific mortality rates by smoking status were examined in 237,648 female registered nurses (RNs): NHS (ages of 30-55 years in 1976, followed through 2002) and NHS II (ages of 25-42 years in 1989, followed through 2003).

Results: Current smokers constituted 33.2% of NHS in 1976 and 13.5% of NHS II in 1989. Smoking rates declined in all birth cohorts; 8.4% were smoking in 2002/2003. Seventy-nine percent of nurses who ever smoked had quit. The mean cigarettes per day declined over time but still exceeded half a pack per day (15.1 cigarettes) at the end of follow-up. The mortality rate among current smokers was higher than that of former smokers and was approximately twice that of never smokers in all age categories; those who smoked were more likely to have comorbid conditions.

Discussion: This study provides the first report of smoking trends among RNs in the NHS. The decline in smoking rate among female nurses mirrors the decline in smoking rate among women in the United States over the past 25 years. Increased mortality and morbidity rates indicate the devastating cost of smoking to the profession and can provide support for the urgent need for further research to encourage continued smoking cessation efforts for nursing professionals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity / trends
  • Cost of Illness
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Nurses / trends*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / mortality
  • Smoking / trends*
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology