Nursing students who smoke should be actively encouraged to give up the habit, argue Spanish researchers.
They said that a decline in knowledge about smoking among students provided evidence of a “significant deficit in undergraduate training”.
“The study showed a need to inform students about methods and strategies to help people quit smoking”
The researchers, from the University of Leon, analysed the prevalence of smoking and knowledge and attitudes about it among undergraduate nursing and physiotherapy students over 10 years.
The study authors, led by Dr Beatriz Ordás, said few studies had previously been performed to describe changes in the use of tobacco and associated characteristics.
They surveyed students during three academic years among nursing and physiotherapy students.
Over the study period, the proportion of smokers fell from 29.3% in 2003 to 18.2% in 2013.
However, a significantly high percentage of students stated they were unaware of the link between smoking and bladder cancer and oral leukoplakia.
Students also declared they were unaware of the association between under-weight new-borns and second-hand smoke, said the authors.
But the majority of students recognised that healthcare professionals were “role models in society”.
“Active programmes should be implemented to encourage those university students who smoke to break this habit,” said the researchers in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
“In relation to education and training, the study showed a need to inform students about methods and strategies to help people quit smoking,” they added.