Many Americans Misinformed about Smoking, Study Says

Despite Americans knowing that smoking can lead to deadly diseases like lung cancer, they underestimate those risks.

Many Americans Misinformed about Smoking, Study Says
How an American perceives the risk of cigarette smoking affects the decision of whether or not to smoke. (Image credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / Getty Images)

There are various studies that describe loss or deaths linked to the cigarettes. Based on it, many Americans seems as they properly understand disadvantages of smoking.

But actually, they don’t. A new research by the Standford University shows that many Americans misinformed about smoking. Despite most Americans’ recognizing that smoking can lead to life-threatening diseases, they don’t understand how much that risk increases.

Many previous studies on this topic only covered reports on how likely they thought it is that smokers and non-smokers will develop lung cancer. This helped them to discover how much of an increase in risk people perceive.

For example, if a respondent thought smokers had a 30 percent chance of developing lung cancer and non-smokers a 10 percent chance, that person thinks that smokers are 20 percentage points more likely to develop cancer.

After some time, scientists realized that some people might not be thinking about the risk that way. Instead, they misinformed about smoking risks.

Stanford scholar Jon Krosnick said, “Smoking is outlawed in public places in the U.S., and the number of people smoking has declined over decades. Yet people continue to initiate the habit of smoking, and many smokers do not try to quit.”

Scientists believe that people’s perceptions about the link between smoking and disease may play a significant role.

During the study, they involved more than 13,000 U.S. adults including smokers and non-smokers. Most of them overestimate the difference between the two rates of lung cancer. It suggests people overestimate the risk of smoking.

Scientists propose that a man’s choice about whether to smoke is halfway in light of how they consider the dangers. Means, if people think about such dangers in terms of a ratio, then smoking rates would be reduced if Americans are properly informed about such ratios.

For that purpose, they explored people’s decisions to start and stop smoking. Participants who perceived more relative risk, the ratio were less likely to start and more likely to quit smoking. Conversely, individuals who saw to a greater degree a distinction between the two disease rates were no pretty much liable to begin or quit smoking.

Krosnick said, “Knowing that people’s risk perceptions underestimate danger, designers of public health campaigns might consider communicating in ways that directly address such perceptions.”

“For example, cigarette package labels in the U.S. include warnings from the Surgeon General of the United States that smoking can cause specific health problems without providing numeric figures to quantify the impact. In contrast, cigarette labels in Australia include quantitative data.”

Malhotra, a professor of political economy said, “The findings also suggest that continued government oversight is necessary. Since Americans misinformed about smoking risk, it indicates some regulation of the industry is in order.”