Smoking and Alcohol Consumption Among Undergraduate Nursing Students

Introduction: Smoking and alcohol consumption are two of the leading risk factors of preventable morbidity and mortality with severe effects on the health of the populations. In Greece, smoking and alcohol consumption in adolescent and student populations are among the highest in Europe, even in those attending health sciences curricula. Aim: To estimate the prevalence of smoking and alcohol consumption among first year nursing students and identify correlates with other health-risk behaviors. Method: This cross-sectional study was performed during four consecutive academic years (2009-2012), in 527 1st year nursing students at the TEI of Crete. The response rate was 97.5%. Participants completed a 68-item self-administered questionnaire that was developed by the researchers. This paper describes the results of the 28 questions related to smoking and alcohol consumption. In addition to descriptive statistics, we used the Chi-square test on the bivariate level and the linear trend for the variables age and year surveyed. The observed/expected ratio of alcohol use and smoking was also examined. Data analysis was performed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) v. 19.0. Results: From a total of 514 female and male students (84.8% and 15.2% respectively, ages 18-43), nearly a third (32.4%) reported any smoking and 82.7% reported current alcohol consumption. Of the total sample, 33.3% of the boys and 29.6% of the girls were smoking and using alcohol concurrently. An analysis of tendencies showed a decrease in the smoking (p=0.008), but not in the alcohol consumption (p=0.299) by year surveyed. The average age at the onset of smoking was 16.5 (±2.1) years, while 27.2% started tobacco consumption before the age of 16. More than two thirds of the students (69.3%) have attempted to quit smoking at least once in their lifetime, but only 14.8% succeeded in abstaining from smoking for a period greater than 3 months. Most students declared that they would not drive after consuming alcohol (92.8%, p<0.001), with a statistical significant difference between boys and girls (95.2% vs 79.7%, p<0.001). After controlling for the possible synergistic use of alcohol and smoking, their observed/expected ratio was 1.13. Conclusions: The results highlight the popularity of tobacco and alcohol use among nursing students in Greece and underline the need for health education and health promotion interventions during undergraduate studies to reduce the risk of escalation in adulthood. Future research should focus on the possible additive or synergistic effects of multiple health risk behaviours.