The lead author of this study, is Dr. Noel Brewer, a public health researcher at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. “We already knew that many people, especially smokers, think smoking might be dangerous for other people but not for themselves”, he said.
He also addressed the misconception that it is the extra additives that make cigarettes toxic, “All cigarettes create smoke that has toxic and deadly chemicals,” adding, “Additives don’t change tobacco smoke and make it dangerous — tobacco is inherently dangerous.”
The research was carried out by conducting three online and phone surveys in which over 9,000 adults and 1,000 adolescents participated. These participants had to answer questions such as whether they had ever heard of 24 different chemicals found in tobacco smoke; how harmful they considered them to be; and how much the presence of a particular substance would prompt them to quit smoking.
Sadly 61% of the adults surveyed by phone and 72% of those quizzed online mistakenly claimed that most of the toxicity found in cigarettes is derived from the extra additives that manufacturers add to the tobacco.
Only 31% of adults contacted by phone and 24% surveyed online accurately conveyed that the act of combustion of tobacco in itself releases toxic fumes.
Interestingly, but probably not surprisingly, smokers tended to be more misguided than non-smokers, and were more likely to relay the wrong facts.
As mentioned earlier, sadly, one in three adults and nearly one in four teens also adopted the wrong assumption that cigarette filters, protect smokers from inhaling any of the harmful chemicals produced by the combustion process, and once again this belief was found to be more prevalent in smokers.
The research results also showed other misconceptions such as which chemicals the respondents considered more harmful than others and on what basis.
Honest information about smoking still desperately needed
From the data produced by this research one thing is evident, the situation in terms of the knowledge circulating about smoking out there is more precarious than imagined. Most assume that in this day and age, everyone is aware of the dangers of smoking, but these results show otherwise. The study authors said that this confusion must be partly “ due to cigarette advertising and packaging, especially cigarettes promoted as “additive-free” or “natural””.
However, most importantly and whatever it is that is perpetuating this ignorance about the effects of smoking, clearly public health entities need to invest in serious campaigns to truly educate people, rather than wasting resources to launch bad publicity about electronic cigarettes, the proven safer alternatives to tobacco cigarettes which have been helping millions quit smoking.
Dr Noel T Brewer ; Public understanding of cigarette smoke constituents: three US surveys ;Tobacco Control