From Center for the Advancement of Health
College smokers report feeling 'invulnerable' to tobacco's effects Many young smokers think they are at least as healthy as nonsmokers and other smokers their age, and are not worried about the health effects of tobacco, according to a new survey of community college students published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
One-quarter of the smokers surveyed said the habit had not affected their health at all, and almost half thought that quitting would be of little or no benefit to their health, according to Alexander V. Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and colleagues.
"Although this sample of college smokers recognized the general negative effects of tobacco use, many of them reported feeling invulnerable to the health effects of tobacco," Prokhorov says.
"Unfortunately, most smokers commonly deny personal risk, believing that others are more likely to experience negative consequences," he adds.
Sixteen percent of the students identified themselves as current smokers, while 13 percent called themselves former smokers. Most of the current smokers had been smoking for five or more years.
The survey indicates that these smokers may not associate certain respiratory problems, like a persistent morning cough or shortness of breath, with smoking. Almost 90 percent of the smokers said that they had no symptoms or illness related to smoking, yet nearly 94 percent reported having at least one respiratory problem.
Prokhorov and colleagues found that smokers who were thinking of quitting tended to report more respiratory problems than those who were not planning to quit, however. The students who considered quitting were also more apt to worry about their health and to believe that quitting smoking would improve their health.
"This finding convincingly addresses the common criticism that young adults are too young to exhibit appreciable tobacco-related symptoms," says Prokhorov.
The researchers suggest that interventions to help young adults quit smoking should take into account the health problems that these individuals already face as a result of their habit.
Prokhorov and colleagues surveyed 1,283 students in Texas for the study. They selected their research pool because recent reports suggest college smoking is on the rise and because community college students typically come from lower-income families, which tend to have a higher prevalence of smokers than higher-income families.
The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute
BY BECKY HAM, STAFF WRITER
HEALTH BEHAVIOR NEWS SERVICE
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