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Research reveals smokers in the dark about health risks

Tuesday 14 February, 2006

Data released today from The Cancer Council Victoria shows many smokers remain largely unaware of the serious health consequences caused by smoking.

Although over 75% of people recall, without prompting, that smoking causes lung cancer less than one quarter are able to identify that smoking causes heart disease.

Less than 1 out of every 10 smokers is able to recall that smoking causes throat cancer, stroke or vascular disease, while less than 5% recall that smoking can cause oral cancer.

Almost none of those surveyed could recall that smoking can cause SIDS and pregnancy complications.

The data provides important insight into how people perceive the dangers of smoking, and comes as new graphic health warnings start appearing on tobacco products.

The first set of new health warnings are set to appear from March 1 2006, and include graphic depictions of oral cancer, clogged arteries and a gangrenous foot as caused by peripheral vascular disease.

Quit's Executive Director, Mr Todd Harper, said research that shows awareness of smoking-caused diseases needs to be 'top of mind' to influence smokers to quit.

"Graphic health warnings on tobacco products are an important way of ensuring smokers receive regular information on the harms of smoking and help to keep quitting 'top of mind' with many smokers."

"Many diseases other than lung cancer are caused by smoking - and new diseases and health conditions are added to list regularly, yet as this data illustrates, many smokers may not fully understand all of the health risks of smoking."

Mr Harper said that graphic health warnings would go some way to address this considering that the average 14-a-day smoker will be exposed to new graphic health warnings more than 5000 times a year.

"There is no doubt that graphic health warnings will make a huge difference when it comes to communicating the health effects of smoking to the broader community," said Mr Harper.

*Please see the following specific data on the spontaneous recall of illnesses caused by smoking.

ends

Edwina Vellar,
Media Manager
ph: (03) 9635 5400
mob: 0417 303 811
email:
Edwina.Vellar@cancervic.org.au

Spontaneous recall of illnesses caused by smoking from respondents, by smoking status

Total

(n=2992)a

%

Smokers

(n=521)b

%

Former Smokers (n=882)c

%

Never Smokers (n=1590)d

%

Lung Cancer

75.3

66.4

74.4

78.8

Emphysema

40.4

39.6

44.9

38.1

Heart disease/attack

24.2

25.5

26.7

22.3

"Cancer"

15.3

18.6

14.5

14.5

Asthma

12.2

7.3

12.6

13.5

Respiratory problems (bronchitis)

10.3

10.0

10.8

10.0

Throat cancer

11.1

6.0

12.5

12.0

Stroke and vascular disease

7.6

8.7

8.2

6.9

Circulatory problems

5.4

4.7

6.3

5.1

Oral cancer

4.3

3.6

4.4

4.5

Pneumonia

2.5

2.1

3.5

2.2

Eye problems

1.7

3.3

1.3

1.4

Ovarian / Gynaecological cancer

1.6

2.3

2.3

1.1

Diabetes

1.4

0.8

2.1

1.2

Low birth weight

1.3

1.0

1.7

1.2

Liver cancer

1.0

0.8

0.6

1.2

Airway disease (including COAD)

0.7

0.1

0.4

1.0

Pregnancy complications

0.5

0.1

0.5

0.7

Breast cancer

0.5

0.7

0.4

0.4

SIDS

0.3

0.2

0.2

0.3

Kidney cancer

0.2

0.3

0.2

0.2

Fertility problems

0.1

0.0

0.2

0.1

Impotence / sexual ability

0.1

0.5

0.0

0.1

Leukaemia

< 0.1

0.0

0.1

0.0

No illness caused

3.1

6.7

2.0

2.6

Don't know/Can't say

1.9

3.5

1.9

1.4

a = 9 missing; b = 2 missing; c = 4 missing; d = 2 missing.

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