The Irony Of The Nurse Who Smokes

It’s crazy, huh. Nurses are at the front line of tobacco treatment and prevention, yet they’re the most likely of all healthcare providers to light up. Why is that? Theories abound, but the stress of nursing is one of the most likely contributors to the addiction.

More than 80% of smokers say they want to quit, and nurses especially feel the pressure to kick the habit once and for all. For how can nurses provide tobacco treatment or smoking cessation counseling to others when they themselves are sneaking out for a cigarette during break?

Some fast facts about nurses and smoking:

  • An estimated 540,000 nurses in the U.S. are smokers.
  • The tobacco industry profits from selling an addictive drug. It may be legal, but their product kills 440,000 people per year. That’s the same as if three 747 jets crashed every day for a year and killed all their passengers.
  • Nurses have the highest smoking rate among healthcare providers, estimated to be about 18 percent.
  • Tobacco is highly addictive, and 90 percent of smokers start before the age of 18.
  • On average, it takes 11 attempts to quit for good.

If you use tobacco, the best thing you can ever do for yourself is to quit. You may not feel ready to quit, but don’t let that stop you. Even if you don’t feel ready, you can break the habit.

It takes more than willpower to quit! For best results, combine medication and counseling sessions. Don’t give up if your first attempt is not successful. Empower yourself by creating a plan before your next attempt, incorporating all the knowledge and support you have available.

Use this checklist as a guide to quit smoking:

  • Set a quit date. Make it public; spread the news at work and at home. Get support from friends and family. If you have a colleague who smokes, give her lots of support in her attempts to quit. Research shows that support from fellow nurses helps smokers to stop smoking.
  • Join a treatment program. Visit the website or call 1-800-QUITNOW to get connected with local programs. By joining, you can track your hours of life and money saved by not smoking.
  • Consult your healthcare provider about starting a medication.
  • On your quit day, throw out all your cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays.
  • Avoid triggers for smoking such as alcohol and caffeine. Drink plenty of water and try exercise and other stress-relieving techniques.
  • Reward yourself for your progress. Give yourself a manicure, get a massage or buy yourself some flowers.
  • Tobacco Free Nurses helps nurses to quit and provides plenty of resources. Visit the website at
  • Empower yourself by helping other nurses quit smoking. Join the Nightingales Nurses RN2Q1 campaign, a nationwide campaign to stop this industrially produced public health crisis. Find out more at

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Jean Cahill

Cut a straw in half and smoke it. Eat cinnamon gum or candy. Run up and down the stairs when you get the urge. buy an electric cigarette for those bad urges so you don’t buy a pack of cigarettes and start again. Definitely throw away all lighters and matches. Tell everyone you quit so you will be embarrassed if you smoke. Definitely exercise!

Harry P

Quitting smoking is the easiest thing on earth to do, I tried it a thousand times! There are only 2 kinds of people that I know, those who don’t smoke (never have) and those who do smoke (or quit and have to occasionally consider the risks and choose to return to or move ahead). It takes monumental stamina and a mighty smart constitution to dump those tobacco products, including those cute new devices that only entice folks to try the healthy alternative….C’mon, wake up it’s a ruse to keep smokers addicted and on the payroll.. Do the right thing and… Read more »

Jean Clark

I quit for a month to a year multiple times. They were right. It takes about 11 attempts before you are done for most people. I haven’t smoked for 2 years now and I’m pretty sure I won’t start up again now. I used Chantix which not everyone can use. I used it for about the last 3 times I quit. It was a big help. It didn’t give me bad dreams or suicidal thoughts. In fact I had a lot of good dreams and was sorry to quit taking it. All I know is I get short of breath… Read more »


I hate that I smoke, seriously it is the dumbest thing on earth! I would never go out in my yard, pick up grass clippings, roll them in paper, light them, and inhale the smoke….yet that is what smoking is right? I am on Chantix right now and have slowed way down but those ones associated with certain activities are so hard to phase out. Post eating, driving, with coffee, to avoid doing a household chore (the old I will smoke a cig then go do that). I absolutely have to stop, I just got diagnosed with osteoporosis (after a… Read more »

kathleen caulfield

The team effort is always the best. Having a buddy to call before you light up makes sense.