Many mistakenly think nicotine causes cancer, rather than the smoke

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WOMEN who smoke are more concerned about their habit and their ability to quit than men, yet both genders appear misinformed about smoking and its link to cancer. In a new study presented at CHEST 2005, the 71st annual international scientific assembly of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), the majority of smokers mistakenly believed nicotine causes cancer, leading many to smoke “light” cigarettes because they believed them to be less harmful. Women also were more likely than men to have feelings of guilt, fear, and worry associated with tobacco use and quitting the habit.
“Men who smoke spend little time thinking about their habit and the harmful effects of smoking, especially if they have few physical side effects,” said lead author Virginia Reichert, NP, director of the Center for Tobacco Control, North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System, Great Neck, NY. “Women who smoke seem to have a great deal of anxiety about smoking. They are worried about their health, feel guilty about not quitting, and believe that cigarettes are controlling their lives.”
Researchers from North Shore-LIJ surveyed 1,139 smoking patients (482 males and 657 females) involved in a tobacco cessation program to evaluate smoking perceptions between genders. Of the patients questioned, 71.9 percent of women and 59.4 percent of men believed nicotine causes cancer, while 75 percent of women and 64.5 percent of men admitted to worrying that smoking may give them cancer. More women (71.9 percent) than men (63.1 percent) reported smoking “light cigarettes,” believing them to be less harmful.
“People smoke to get the addictive drug, nicotine, but the drug alone does not cause cancer. The delivery system, a cigarette full of hundreds of toxic chemicals that are inhaled along with nicotine, does,” said Ms. Reichert. “This misinformation leads many smokers to smoke ‘light’ cigarettes, thinking they will inhale less nicotine. In reality, smokers tend to smoke more light cigarettes and inhale more deeply to get nicotine from light cigarettes, resulting in a significant amount of harmful chemicals being inhaled.”
More women than men reported feeling guilty about their smoking habit, 77.2 percent vs 61.7 percent, respectively. In regard to quitting smoking, 41.1 percent of women and 14.6 percent of men reported a “fear of gaining weight,” while 17.5 percent of women and 10.7 percent of men reported “fear of failure” at quitting smoking. In addition, 63.1 percent of women and 55 percent of men reported being “worried about managing their stress without cigarettes.”

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