Effects of Smoking Not Understood by Smokers

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While a study found that smokers were concerned with their impact on their friends' and family's health, they were seemingly unaware of the effects their habits - such as the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - could bring upon themselves.

While a study found that smokers were concerned with their impact on their friends’ and family’s health, they were seemingly unaware of the effects their habits — such as the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — could bring upon themselves.

Published online in BMC Public Health, researchers from the University of Leicester explored how smokers felt their habits affected their families and themselves and specific factors that motivated them to quit. The study was comprised of interviews with 30 people, who were smoking cessation patients (n=17) or people who worked in smoking cessation environments (n=13).

When asked about the effects of their smoking on family members, many participants disclosed that they were the motivation for them quitting or, at the very least, reduce their smoking. Many respondents were specifically worried about the effects of secondhand smoke to their loved ones, and less concerned about how it affected themselves. Some also mentioned how their habit strained relationships and feared that smoking would result in them missing out on events and opportunities.

The investigators also found that smokers were mostly unknowledgeable of a link between COPD and smoking. However, they noted participants who either suffered from emphysema or chronic bronchitis themselves, or knew someone with these diseases were more likely to be cognizant of the link. Several respondents divulged that financial ramifications pushed them to quit more than health.

When asked if smoking cessation information should disclose the COPD-smoking relationship, the authors reported many participants were resistant as they thought others would have trouble “understanding that [the] increased risk of a disease does not mean a person will definitely go on to develop that disease, or that any change in lifestyle would guarantee avoiding it. This was further compounded by having friends or family who despite being non-smokers had still gone on to develop diseases often associated with smoking.”

Concluding their study, the investigators mentioned while cancer is understood in regard to smoking, there seemed to be a learning gap with COPD, especially among people in lower socioeconomic classes. As a result, this group would benefit from re-education measures on the effects on smoking.

“On a community level, involved individuals become carriers of new knowledge and can have a positive impact within their community by introducing this to their friends and relatives. On a wider level, greater involvement could help ensure that cessation approaches have a focus that reflects key motivating factors that are relevant to the target group,” the writers claimed.

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