Nurses Who Smoke: Victims or Hypocrites?

nurses who smoke

As ambassadors of health care, nurses are expected to always walk their talk. 

But for those who have been struggling with smoking addiction, this is easier said than done.

Perhaps peer pressure has to be blamed. Or maybe it’s the false idea that smoking is as glamorous as what the mass media propagate.

But for most nurses I’ve come across, it’s the stressful hospital shifts that push them to sneak cigarettes.

Now, are we supposed to condemn nurses who smoke or view them as victims who are just losing their sense of control?


Nurses Who Smoke: Irony At Its Best

Few things can ever be more ironic than nurses who smoke. In the first place, aren’t they supposed to do health teaching and warn people of the dangers of cigarette smoking? Sadly, that’s not what happens in reality.

In U.S. alone, 540, 000 nurses admit that they’re smokers. That’s close to 16% of the Nursing population in the country. Worse, nurses who smoke even outnumber doctors who have the same struggle (only 2% to 3% of them smoke according to surveys).

The irony of cigarette-loving nurses is no laughing matter. Nurses are at the forefront of health care and showing this negative habit in front of their patients may send the wrong signals. Plus, cigarettes can leave a lasting smell that might be offensive both to patients and other non-smoking nurses.

Due to its negative impact to the profession, smoking ban has been imposed within the Nursing community. But helping nurses quit smoking is not as easy as most people think. Truth be told, we’re dealing with addiction here–something that a lax policy won’t be able to solve overnight.


Addiction Excuses No One

In reality, nurses who sneak cigarettes aren’t not doing it for attention. Stress can push people over the edge and for some, tobacco is their only way to escape. And that’s how a deep-seated addiction is born.

Connie Sorrell, director of the Kentucky Cancer Program, revealed that nurse smokers are just as vulnerable as the patients they care for. The fact that some nurses still smoke despite prior knowledge of its dangers speaks volumes on how strong the addiction is.

But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be stopped.

Like others who struggle with smoking addiction, nurses equally deserve some help from their colleagues. Whether you’re a nurse smoker or helping someone to fight this addiction, these tips will surely get you started:


Decide to quit – Unless you are really willing to leave your addiction behind, any type of support will amount to nothing.

Set a specific quit date and make sure you let go of your cigarettes when the time comes. If you fail , you can always start all over again. Remember, your will to change matters more than the length of time it takes to finally beat the addiction.


Use other stress-relieving methods – If you always use stress as an excuse to smoking, then seek other healthier methods to relax.

Instead of smoking, why not actively involve in sports or eat healthy foods to prevent burn-out? In that way, you’re not only deviating your attention to smoking but also putting the building blocks for a healthier lifestyle.


Reward yourself – Your journey towards a tobacco-free life shouldn’t be agonizing. You can reward yourself with some massage or food trips every time you achieve a milestone. This will serve as a motivation for you to get better and finally ditch smoking for good.


Get involved – Always remember that you’re not alone in this battle. Ask the support from your co-workers and family to ensure that you gain  the energy to push through.

Once you’re able to beat the addiction, get involved in different organizations like Nightingales Nurses to help others who are still struggling.


Quitting smoking is a process and you won’t beat the addiction overnight. With patience, determination, and support from your loved ones, the journey towards a smoke-free Nursing career is always one step away.

Featured image courtesy of Burger/Phanie/Rex Features