Smokers Remain Unaware of the Health Effects of Smoking, New Survey Finds

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite major efforts to educate the public on the dangers of smoking over the past 40 years, a new national survey conducted by the American Legacy Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, an industry leader in smoking cessation, indicates major knowledge gaps exist in what smokers believe to be true about the risks associated with smoking compared the actual realities of tobacco-related disease and death. Experts believe these misperceptions may prevent smokers from trying to quit and successfully utilizing proven smoking cessation treatments.

According to the survey, while many smokers are aware that smoking can lead to serious health problems including lung cancer, many underestimate the risk of getting the disease from smoking. For example, two in three smokers underestimate the chance of developing lung cancer compared to a non-smoker and four in 10 incorrectly believe that developing lung cancer depends more on genes than anything else. Furthermore, the survey found that up to a third of smokers think that certain activities such as exercise and taking vitamins could "undo" most of the effects of smoking.(1)

"What is alarming about these survey findings is that so many smokers are still so misinformed," said Dr. Cheryl Healton, president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. "Proven cessation treatments like nicotine replacement therapy continue to be underutilized and we believe these misperceptions are partly to blame. These findings point to the fact that more needs to be done to educate and inform smokers."

Misperceptions about the effects of nicotine found in cigarettes remain at the forefront. Almost all survey respondents (81 to 86 percent) either were unsure whether, or incorrectly believed that, nicotine caused cancer, emphysema or heart attacks.(1) While smoking has been proven to cause cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, long-term use of NRTs are not known to be associated with any serious harmful effects.(2) These nicotine-related misperceptions can prevent consideration and appropriate use of smoking cessation aids such as nicotine replacement therapies (NRT).

The survey findings indicate smokers dramatically underestimate the safety and efficacy of NRT products such as the nicotine gum, patch and lozenge. More than 76 percent of smokers surveyed wrongly believe that, or do not know whether, NRTs are more addictive than cigarettes, highlighting the need for further education as cigarettes are vastly more addictive.(3,4) In fact, about half of the smokers surveyed stated they would be more likely to consider NRT if they were shown scientific evidence that prove its safety and efficacy.(1)

"The survey reveals that when smokers try quitting with NRT they do not use enough of it or use it for as long as directed on the products label," said Bill Slivka, President Smoking Control, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. "Study after study shows that, when used correctly, these products double a smoker's chances of quitting versus cold turkey.(7) The reality is that most smokers need some type of support when quitting smoking."

While research shows the majority of smokers try to quit "cold turkey," on any given quit attempt, only 3-5 percent of smokers who quit cold turkey are successful long-term.(8) Tools for cessation such as NRTs, social support, and counseling have been proven to greatly increase the chances of a successful quit attempt.(9) But the survey revealed that almost three-quarters (72 percent) of smokers surveyed believe that quitting is "just a matter of will power." (1) In reality, many smokers need support to address the addiction to nicotine and smoking. Smokers making a quit attempt should utilize resources such as counseling opportunities to help understand what to expect and how to handle the tough situations when quitting, and also consider safe and effective stop-smoking products.

NRT products such as the gum, patch and lozenge are among the first-line treatments recommended for all smokers and when used as directed, can double a smoker's chances of quitting versus cold turkey.(7) In fact, new research published by Thorax confirms NRT helps "real-world" smokers quit by doubling the odds of successfully quitting long-term and supports the findings of more than 100 randomized clinical trials.(10) NRT is extensively proven to significantly reduce cravings and other withdrawal symptoms during quitting, allowing smokers to focus on behavior change.(11) Data from more than 100 clinical trials involving more than 35,000 smokers have established a consistent safety and efficacy profile for NRT products over decades of study and use.(12)

About the Survey

A survey of 900 men and women adult smokers in the U.S. was fielded in July 2007 by Richard Day Research through an online panel, screening for adults age 18 and over who smoke cigarettes every day. The data was weighted to adjust for age, ethnicity and gender using estimates from the 2006 National Health Interview Survey. The "average" respondent in the survey was 48 years of age and started smoking when they were 16 years old, smokes 20 cigarettes per day and has tried to quit three times in the past (only 16 percent of respondents have never tried to quit). The survey was conducted on behalf of The American Legacy Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare.

About The American Legacy Foundation(R)

The American Legacy Foundation(R) is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns. The foundation's programs include truth(R), a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EX(R), an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use; and a nationally-renowned program of outreach to priority populations. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit is GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare's educational website that enables smokers to develop an initial quit-smoking plan by completing various assessment tools online. The assessment includes health risks, cravings, smoking triggers, readiness, dependency and more. The site also includes helpful tips, quitting resources and virtual coaches. For more information, visit

About GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Consumer Healthcare is one of the world's largest over-the-counter consumer healthcare products companies. GSK offers the widest range of proven NRT products available, products which can significantly improve a smoker's chance of quitting successfully and have helped millions of people quit smoking. In addition, GSK offers several resources and support services designed specifically to help smokers and non-smokers understand and address the two components to smoking cessation: nicotine addiction and habit change. Its more than 30 well-known brands include the products Nicorette gum, NicoDerm CQ patch, Commit lozenge, Abreva, Aquafresh, Sensodyne, and Tums, trademarks owned by and/or licensed to GlaxoSmithKline Group of Companies.

About GlaxoSmithKline

GlaxoSmithKline is one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare companies. GlaxoSmithKline is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.

SOURCE American Legacy Foundation; GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare