Citizens for Clean Air and Clean Lungs

Smokers Do Not Recognize The Negative Health Consequences Of Smoking
Adapted from press release: NEW YORK, Mar 16 (Reuters Health) -- Most smokers do not recognize that smoking increases their risk for cancer and heart disease, according to a recently conducted study.

"Many smokers continue to deny their own personal risks from smoking," conclude Drs. John Ayanian and Paul Cleary of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. Their report is published in the March 17, 1999 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers asked over 3,000 randomly selected adults to complete telephone interviews and written questionnaires focused on lifestyle and health issues. About a quarter of respondents identified themselves as current smokers. As part of the study, each participant was asked "Do you think your risk of a heart attack (or cancer) is higher, lower, or about the same as other (men/women) your age?"

Ayanian and Cleary found that most U.S. smokers "do not recognize or acknowledge an increased personal risk of heart disease or cancer." Just 40% of smokers said they believed themselves to be at an above-average risk for cancer, and only 29% reported they believed to be at an above-average risk for heart attack when compared to their nonsmoking peers.

According to the researchers, older and less-educated smokers were the groups least likely to be aware of their increased risk for heart disease and cancer compared with younger, better-educated smokers. Heavy smokers (more than two packs per day) were more likely to perceive health risks from their habit than were lighter smokers.

"Because smoking remains the most important preventable cause of (heart disease and cancer) in the United States, physicians and public health professionals should educate smokers about their personal health risks as part of comprehensive efforts to promote smoking cessation," Ayanian and Cleary concluded.

SOURCE: The Journal of the American Medical Association 1999;281:1019-1021.

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