Despite major efforts to educate the public on the dangers of smoking, a new national survey conducted by the American Legacy Foundation and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, indicates that major knowledge gaps exist in what smokers believe to be the risks of smoking compared with the actual realities of tobacco related disease and death. Experts believe these misperceptions may prevent smokers from trying to quit and successfully utilising proven smoking cessation treatments.

According to the survey many smokers underestimate the risk of developing lung cancer with four in 10 incorrectly believing that 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.

Dr Cheryl Healton, president of the American Legacy Foundation said, "What is alarming about these survey findings is that so many smokers are still so misinformed. Proven cessation treatments like nicotine replacement therapy continue to be underutilised and we believe these misperceptions are partly to blame."

Misperceptions about the effects of nicotine found in cigarettes remain at the forefront. Almost all survey respondents were either unsure or incorrectly believed that nicotine caused cancer, emphysema or heart attacks. 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. 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. 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.

Two-thirds wrongly believe or do not know if nicotine gum, patches or lozenges can cause cancer. Many surveys have confirmed that there is no link between cancer and nicotine replacement therapy.


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