Study Reveals Cigarette Smokers not Aware of What Chemicals they Inhale

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At a time when information is key and its easy availability is something that Internet facilitates, there is a huge void as far as awareness about chemical components of cigarette smoke is concerned, a new study has found.

According to a study recently published in open access journal BMC Public Health, cigarette smokers are not aware of all the chemicals they inhale when smoking cigarette and that there is a need to reveal that information and to ensure that that information reaches all segment of the US population.

Researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have said that Americans want easy access to information about the chemicals that are present in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Researchers found that more than a quarter of adults (27.5 per cent) reported having looked for information on the different components of tobacco products and tobacco smoke, many of which are known to be poisonous or cause cancer.

Out of these adults, 37.2 per cent were young adults (18-25 years of age) and 34.3 per cent were smokers. Out of non-smokers and older adults, 26 per cent reported having looked for information on tobacco constituents. However, with the exception of nicotine, most respondents were largely unaware of which constituents are present in cigarette smoke. Over half of respondents (54.8 per cent) indicated that they would like relevant information to be available on cigarette packs, and 28.7 per cent would prefer to access that information online.

These results indicate that publication of tobacco constituent information is of interest to the public and could improve public health in the US where tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease, the researchers suggest.

Researchers have called for more transparency and need for making tobacco chemical information available to the public. They are of the opinion that if this information is made available publicly, people who have read and understood this information are less likely to start smoking and more likely to quit.

The research team conducted a nationally representative telephone survey among 5,014 US adults aged 18 years and over. To make sure that the sample adequately represented smokers, young adults and minority groups, the survey oversampled high smoking/low income areas and cell phone numbers, as well as groups known to have experienced mistreatment by government organizations in the past. Some of these groups, which include people living in poverty, people with lower education, and sexual minorities, are most affected by tobacco use and its associated health risks, according to the researchers.

Given the FDA’s role of communicating the harms of tobacco use, the researchers sought to understand how tobacco product users and non-users perceive the credibility of the FDA. Participants were asked if they had ever heard of the FDA and if they believed that the FDA could effectively regulate tobacco products. The vast majority of US adults surveyed (94.6 per cent) reported having heard of the FDA, but awareness was lower amongst young adults, those with lower education, low numeracy and those living in poverty. The majority of both smokers (66.6 per cent) and non-smokers (65.0 per cent) believed that the FDA could effectively regulate tobacco products.