Background: Tobacco smoking rates are increasing in developing countries and so are tobacco-related chronic diseases. Reported figures from the WHO show rates of smoking in Egypt as high as 20% but limited information is available about smoking specifically among physicians and medical students.
Materials and methods: Final-year medical students of Cairo University were surveyed regarding their tobacco behavior and attitudes using a modified Global Health Professions Student Survey. We approached 220 students by randomly selecting clinical units into which they were assigned and requested completion of the survey.
Results: Ever users of some form of tobacco comprised 46.7% of students sampled, current users of cigarettes comprised 17.4%, and current users of water pipe 'sheesha' comprised 17.6%. The vast majority (87.7%) of students believed that smoking is a public health problem in Cairo and supported restriction of tobacco. Yet, only 58.5% stated that they were taught it is important for physicians to provide tobacco education materials to patients. Among ever users of cigarettes, 54.4% believed health professionals do not serve as health role models for patients, and only a small percentage of all students (34.2%) stated that they had received some form of training on smoking cessation in their medical curriculum to be able to instruct patients.
Conclusion and recommendations: A high rate of smoking was revealed among medical students in Cairo. Overall, approximately 23.4% of students were currently smoking cigarettes and/or sheesha, and 46.7% were ever users of some form of tobacco. A formal antitobacco program for medical students should be incorporated into their medical curriculum to change the attitudes of medical students and overcome the anticipated increase in chronic diseases in Egypt.