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European report demands smoking GPs quit

An influential group of cancer experts from across Europe has ordered GPs who smoke to kick the habit as an example for patients.

The call comes in Responding to the challenge of cancer in Europe, a blueprint for cancer care across the EU.

A section co-written by Jose M Martin-Moreno, professor of public health at the University of Valencia in Spain, said: ‘It is of concern that the prevalence of smoking remains high among general practitioners among many parts of Europe. Doctors should set an exemplary lifestyle in terms of health. This should be a target for immediate action.'

The report, prepared by Slovenia during its EU presidency, does not give data on the number of GPs who smoke. A Pulse survey last year showed that only 2 per cent of UK GPs are smokers, down from 5 per cent in 2000.

Dr Sam Everington, a GP at the Healthy Living Centre in Tower Hamlets, London, said: ‘I think that GPs who smoke should make sure they don't undermine their advice by actually smelling of smoke themselves.'

Ironically, some patients respond well if a GP admits to being a smoker, added Dr Everington, because they recognise that the GP knows what they are going through.

GPs are often reluctant to seek help for addictions or mental health problems, he said.

The cancer report praised UK GPs for having strong links with hospitals for patient referrals, but warned that five-year survival rates in lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer were lower in the UK than in everywhere except eastern Europe.

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