Background: The Medical and Dental Global Health Professions Student Surveys (GHPSS) are surveys based in schools that collect self-administered data from students on the prevalence of tobacco use, exposure to second-hand smoke, and tobacco cessation training, among the third-year medical and dental students.
Materials and methods: Two rounds of medical and dental GHPSS have been conducted in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, among the third-year medical and dental students, between 2005 and 2006 and 2009 and 2011.
Results: The prevalence of any tobacco use among third-year male and female medical students did not change in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal between 2005 and 2006 and 2009 and 2011; however, it reduced significantly among females in Myanmar (3.3% in 2006 to 1.8% in 2009) and in Sri Lanka (2.5% in 2006 to 0.6% in 2011). The prevalence of any tobacco use among third-year male dental students did not change in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Thailand between 2005 and 2006 and 2009 and 2011; however, in Myanmar, the prevalence increased significantly (35.6% in 2006 to 49.5% in 2009). Among the third-year female students, a significant increase in prevalence was noticed in Bangladesh (4.0% in 2005 to 22.2% in 2009) and Thailand (0.7% in 2006 to 2.1% in 2011). It remained unchanged in the other three countries. Prevalence of exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) both at home and in public places, among medical students, decreased significantly in Myanmar and Sri Lanka between 2006 and 2009 and in 2011. Among dental students, the prevalence of SHS exposure at home reduced significantly in Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar, and in public places in India. However, there was an increase of SHS exposure among dental students in Nepal, both at home and in public places, between 2005 and 2011. Medical students in Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka reported a declining trend in schools, with a smoking ban policy in place, between 2005 and 2006 and 2009 and 2011, while proportions of dental students reported that schools with a smoking ban policy have increased significantly in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Ever receiving cessation training increased significantly among medical students in Sri Lanka only, whereas, among dental students, it increased in India, Nepal, and Thailand.
Conclusion: Trends of tobacco use and exposure to SHS among medical and dental students in most countries of the South-East Asia Region had changed only relatively between the two rounds of GHPSS (2005-2006 and 2009-2011). No significant improvement was observed in the trend in schools with a policy banning smoking in school buildings and clinics. Almost all countries in the SEA Region that participated in GHPSS showed no significant change in ever having received formal training on tobacco cessation among medical and dental students.