Personal tobacco use and attitudes towards cessation among undergraduate health professional students in South Africa
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University of Cape Town, Faculty of Health Sciences, South Africa
National Council Against Smoking, South Africa
University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Gauteng Department of Health, South Africa
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A348
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Advice from health professionals helps tobacco users to quit. Despite evidence that even simple advice about quitting during routine clinical care increases the likelihood of success, it is unclear whether these skills are taught and mastered during health professional training. What impact does personal tobacco use have on students' abilities to appropriately counsel; and, how well-equipped do South African health professional students feel to effectively assist tobacco users to quit?

A modified Global Health Professional Student Survey (GHPSS) was administered to all undergraduate health sciences students at two South African universities (University of the Witwatersrand - Wits and University of Cape Town - UCT) in 2012-13. In addition to personal tobacco use, students were asked whether they had been taught about the dangers of tobacco, reasons why people smoke, smoking cessation approaches and counselling preparedness.

Of 469 Wits and 573 UCT respondents, 56% and 52% respectively had tried smoking at least once; 14% of respondents from Wits and 10% from UCT were active smokers at the time of the study. 89% of students at Wits and 79% at UCT believed that specific training on tobacco cessation techniques is necessary. They acknowledged receiving training on the dangers of smoking (74% UCT and 94% Wits) and discussing the reasons why people smoke (55% UCT and 76% Wits). However, only 31% at UCT and 44% at Wits said that they received formal training in smoking cessation approaches to use with patients. On confidence to counsel patients about the dangers of smoking, 43% of the respondents from Wits and 26% from UCT felt they were equipped to do so.

This research highlights gaps in the curricula of health sciences students. There is an urgent need address personal smoking cessation among students and improve their competence in clinical settings to become more effective advocates.

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