The role of nurses in the Australian healthcare system is crucial and that role includes educating patients to help improve their future health outcomes. The links between smoking and a variety of severe health conditions is such that implicitly advocating it through personal use would be at odds with this important mandate. The good news is, the vast majority of nurses (86%) and doctors (95%) do not smoke.
The ABS Australian Health Survey, 2011-12, found that 14% of nurses in Australia smoked. This is lower than the average in other professions. They were outdone by doctors, only 5% of whom smoked. The overall rate of smoking in Australia has reduced since the survey was conducted.
There is widespread awareness in the Australian community that smoking is harmful to health. Cigarettes in Australia must, by law, be sold in plain packaging, adorned only with government health warnings depicting hideous diseases and infections. Given this level of awareness, it is unlikely that members of the public would be deceived into believing that smoking is healthy. The potential for damage rather relates to the reputation and credibility of health practitioners.
Overall rates of smoking have been on the decline in the long term in Australia. Initiatives to reduce rates of smoking include the aforementioned packaging laws, advertising and sponsorship restrictions, education campaigns through schools and sporting clubs, extensive advertising campaigns including government sponsored television advertisements and patient education by Australian health practitioners such as nurses and doctors. Whilst these initiatives have been shown to be effective over the long term, the rate of progress has appeared to slow recently. Anti smoking campaigners have attributed this to the fact that the remaining smokers are probably among those who have had the most difficulty to quit. However, they also note concerning increases in uptake among young girls.
The ABS Survey can be viewed here.