Along with doctors and dentists, nurses presented yet another health professional that had the potential to reassure consumers worried about the ill health effects of smoking. The none-too-subtle message was that if the nurse, with all of her expertise and her dedication to helping patients, chose to smoke a particular brand of cigarettes or even recommended a particular brand, then it must be safe.
As women began taking up the habit of smoking during the early 20th century, so did nurses in large numbers. It is interesting to note, however, that whereas the number of doctors who smoked plummeted drastically in the 1950s and 1960s when conclusive data linked smoking to lung cancer, smoking remained common among nurses. To this day, smoking is more prevalent among nurses than doctors in the United States. The Nurses’ Health Study shows that 8.4% of nurses smoked in 2003, whereas comparable data from 2005 from the Association of Medical Colleges reveals that only 1% of doctors smoke (1).
1. “Nurses’ Health Study shows nurses smoke more than doctors.” Nursing Times. 26 Nov 2008.