Press Release - August 2003

UCLA Nursing School Professor Launches National Campaign to Help Nurses Quit Smoking

A UCLA School of Nursing professor will launch a program to help nurses quit smoking. The first initiative of its kind in the United States, “Tobacco Free-Nurses” will be funded by a $1.8 million grant from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

UCLA School of Nursing Professor Linda Sarna and Stella Aguinaga Bialous, a nurse who is a tobacco-control consultant in San Francisco, are spearheading the multifaceted national initiative, along with Dr. Mary Ellen Wewers and Dr. Erika Froelicher from schools of nursing at The Ohio State University and University of California, San Francisco, respectively. This initiative is aimed at supporting the country’s largest group of health professionals in quitting smoking.

Sarna notes that one barrier to conducting smoking-cessation interventions with patients is nurses who themselves continue to smoke. That number, estimated at 18 percent, marks the highest percentage of smokers among all health professionals.

“Nurses have a tremendous opportunity to assist in tobacco-control efforts,” Sarna said. “However, smoking among nurses limits their ability to be strong tobacco-control advocates, including the act of engaging in smoking-cessation efforts with their patients.”

According to Sarna, in addition to individual nurses who smoke, the nursing profession as a whole has had limited leadership in the tobacco-control movement. Sarna and her colleagues hope to expand nursing leadership in tobacco control through another Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant funded through its Smoking Cessation Leadership Center at the University of California, San Francisco, for $174,000.

“In the past, there has been no coordinated effort to support nurses in their own cessation efforts or to stress the critical importance of being smoke-free role models,” Sarna said. “We have worked with a variety of nursing organizations and tobacco-control experts to help us develop this nationwide initiative that will provide nurses who smoke with cessation resources.”

One of these resources will include $100 of free, individualized smoking-cessation services that will be offered through the Internet for each nurse who chooses to participate. Additionally, in partnership with nursing organizations including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, the American Nurses Foundation and the National Coalition for EthnicMinority Nurses associations, a variety of activities will be developed to support smoking-cessation efforts for the workforce and the public.

“Despite progress in reducing the prevalence of tobacco use, in 2000 there were still 46.5 million adults in the United States who were smokers, 26 percent male and 21 percent female,” Sarna said. “Smoking continues to be a major cause of preventable illness, disability and premature death in this country.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grant-making in four goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to quality health care at reasonable cost, to improve the quality of care and support for people with chronic health conditions, to promote healthy communities and lifestyles, and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse - tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs..