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Editor,—A survey of smoking in a representative sample of Italian doctors was conducted by the Istituto Doxa (the Italian branch of the Gallup Group) between 20 and 22 January 1999, within the framework of a European project coordinated by the British Medical Association. The sample was obtained from the official lists of the Federazione Nazionale degli Ordini dei Medici Chirurghi e degli Odontoiatri, stratified by age, sex and geographical area.
A total of 501 doctors (384 men, 117 women, mean age 45 years) were interviewed; 218 were general practitioners. Table 1 gives their distribution according to smoking status, sex and age group. Of these, 121 (24.2%) were current smokers of ⩾1 cigarettes per day, 17 (3.4%) were occasional smokers, 133 (26.5%) ex-smokers, and 230 (45.9%) never smokers. With reference to number of cigarettes smoked, 12.8% reported smoking <15 cigarettes per day, 9.4% 15 to 24, and 2.0% ⩾25 cigarettes per day. The prevalence of current smoking was similar in men (24.5%) and women (23.1%), and in subsequent age groups. Women, however, were more frequently never smokers (57.3% versus 42.4%), and less frequently ex-smokers. Likewise, younger doctors (⩽40 years) were more frequently never smokers (58.2%).
The overall smoking prevalence among Italian doctors is thus similar to that of the general population of Italian adults (25.3% in 1995).1 While male doctors smoked less frequently than the male general population (24.5% versus 34.1%), female doctors smoked more frequently than the female general population (23.1% versus 17.2%).1
The main message of this survey is that smoking prevalence remains exceedingly high among Italian doctors, and comparable to the general Italian population for both sexes combined,1 although it has declined since the mid-1980s.2 Indeed, female Italian doctors smoke more than their general population counterpart.