Open Access Research article

Use of smokeless tobacco among groups of Pakistani medical students – a cross sectional study

Sardar Z Imam*, Haq Nawaz, Yasir J Sepah, Aqueel H Pabaney, Mahwish Ilyas and Shehzad Ghaffar

Author Affiliations

Department of Surgery (ENT, Head & Neck Division), Aga Khan University Medical College, Karachi, Pakistan

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:231  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-231

Published: 3 September 2007

Abstract

Background

Use of smokeless tobacco is common in South Asia. Tobacco is a major preventable cause of morbidity and mortality. Doctors make one of the best avenues to influence patients' tobacco use. However, medical students addicted to tobacco are likely to retain this habit as physicians and are unlikely to counsel patients against using tobacco. With this background, this study was conducted with the objective of determining the prevalence of smokeless tobacco among Pakistani medical students.

Methods

A cross sectional study was carried out in three medical colleges of Pakistan – one from the north and two from the southern region. 1025 students selected by convenient sampling completed a peer reviewed, pre-tested, self-administered questionnaire. Questions were asked regarding lifetime use (at least once or twice in their life), current use (at least once is the last 30 days), and established use (more than 100 times in their life) of smokeless tobacco. Chi square and logistic regression analyses were used.

Results

Two hundred and twenty (21.5%) students had used tobacco in some form (smoked or smokeless) in their lifetime. Sixty six (6.4%) students were lifetime users of smokeless tobacco. Thirteen (1.3%) were daily users while 18 (1.8%) fulfilled the criterion for established users. Niswar was the most commonly used form of smokeless tobacco followed by paan and nass. Most naswar users belonged to NWFP while most paan users studied in Karachi. On univariate analysis, lifetime use of smokeless tobacco showed significant associations with the use of cigarettes, student gender (M > F), student residence (boarders > day scholars) and location of the College (NWFP > Karachi). Multivariate analysis showed independent association of lifetime use of smokeless tobacco with concomitant cigarette smoking, student gender and location of the medical college.

Conclusion

The use of smokeless tobacco among medical students cannot be ignored. The governments should add the goal of eliminating smokeless tobacco to existing drives against cigarette smoking. Drives in Karachi should focus more on eliminating paan usage while those in NWFP should focus more on the use of naswar. Medical colleges should provide greater education about the myths and hazards of smokeless tobacco.