Background: Little is known about the knowledge and attitudes towards tobacco use among medical students in Canada. Our objectives were to estimate the prevalence of tobacco use among medical students, assess their perceived level of education about tobacco addiction management and their preparedness to address tobacco use with their future patients.
Methods: A cross-sectional online survey was administered to University of Alberta undergraduate medical school trainees. The 32-question survey addressed student demographics, tobacco use, knowledge and attitudes around tobacco and waterpipe smoking, tobacco education received in medical school, as well as knowledge and competency regarding tobacco cessation interventions.
Results: Of 681 polled students, 301 completed the survey. Current (defined as "use within the last 30 days") cigarette, cigar/cigarillo and waterpipe smoking prevalence was 3.3%, 6% and 6%, respectively. One third of the respondents had ever smoked a cigarette, but 41% had tried cigars/cigarillos and 40% had smoked a waterpipe at some time in the past. Students reported moderate levels of education on a variety of tobacco-related subjects but were well-informed on the role of tobacco in disease causation. The majority of students in their final two years of training felt competent to provide tobacco cessation interventions, but only 10% definitively agreed that they had received enough training in this area.
Conclusions: Waterpipe exposure/current use was surprisingly high among this sample of medical students, a population well educated about the role of tobacco in disease causation. The majority of respondents appeared to be adequately prepared to manage tobacco addiction but education could be improved, particularly training in behavioral modification techniques used in tobacco use cessation.
Keywords: Medical education; Medical students; Tobacco cessation; Waterpipe.