Smoking surveys among physicians have proved useful in highlighting the importance of physicians as healthy life style exemplars and role models in tobacco control and smoking cessation. The aim of this study was to give an overview of smoking behaviour among Estonian physicians from 1982 to 2014.
Three cross-sectional postal surveys using a self-administered questionnaire were carried out among all practising physicians in Estonia. The number of physicians participating in this study was 3786 in 1982, 2735 in 2002, and 2902 in 2014. Data analysis involved calculating the age-standardized prevalences of smoking, prevalences of smoking by age group and mean age of smoking initiation. A non-parametric test for trend was used to assess significant changes in smoking over time.
Age-standardized prevalence of current smoking among men was 39.7% in 1982, 20.9% in 2002, and 14.3% in 2014 and among women 12.2%, 8.0%, and 5.2%, respectively (p < 0.0001 for trends). From 1982 to 2014, the biggest decline of current smoking among men and women was in age groups under 35 (from 55.2% to 16.7% and from 16.7% to 2.8%, respectively) and 35–44 (from 47.1% to 8.3% and from 19.5% to 5.1%, respectively) (p < 0.0001 for trends). Mean age of smoking initiation decreased from 20.4 to 19.3 among men and from 24.5 to 20.4 among women over the study period.
In 1982–2014, smoking prevalence among Estonian physicians declined substantially. This may influence the willingness of society to recognize the health consequences of smoking which could give a support to the decline of the smoking epidemic in the country. Differences between smoking among male and female physicians persisted over the study period, but mean age of smoking initiation decreased. A further decline in smoking among Estonian physicians should be encouraged by special efforts targeted at physicians.