(RxWiki News) Understanding the health hazards of smoking may help more people to quit. Simplifying information about the dangers of smoking could make the truth accessible to more people.
A recent study tested the human health knowledge of a group of smokers.
The results of this study showed that people with less education, lower incomes and those in minority groups might have trouble quitting.
These individuals were unaware of the detailed health hazards associated with smoking.
Diana W. Stewart, PhD, from the Department of Health Disparities Research at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, led an investigation into barriers between people and smoking cessation.
“Although smoking prevalence has declined in recent years, nearly 21 percent of US adults continue to smoke,” the authors wrote.
According to the authors, smoking rates have been higher in groups of people that have less education and lower incomes and are in minority groups.
The authors said that the smoking rates have been higher in these groups due to limited access to help with smoking cessation tools and aids.
For this study, 402 people between 18 and 70 years of age, who had been smoking at least five cigarettes per day over the course of the previous year, were recruited in 2009.
All of the participants told the researchers that they had no intention of quitting smoking within 30 days of starting the study.
The researchers asked the participants to take a test that assessed the level of knowledge and basic understanding they had about human health.
After scoring the health knowledge tests, the researchers found that 174 participants understood human health below 9th grade levels of understanding and 228 of the participants understood human health at a 9th grade level or above.
Results showed that 50 percent of African Americans, 29 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 28 percent of other racial minorities had a low understanding of human health.
About 46 percent of participants with an annual household income of less than $10,000 had a low understanding of human health compared to 34 percent of people that made $10,000 or more per year.
About 54 percent of people with less than a high school degree scored low on human health understanding compared to 39 percent of people with a high school degree or higher.
Level of dependence on smoking was measured by how many cigarettes each person smoked per day and how long it took that person to smoke his or her first cigarette after waking up each day.
Overall, the participants smoked an average of 18 cigarettes per day and 47 percent said they smoked their first cigarette within 5 minutes of waking. The smoking dependence scale rated each participant's level of smoking on a scale from 0 to 6.
People with a lower level of human health knowledge scored an average of 3.45 on the smoking dependence scale. People with a higher level of human health knowledge scored an average of 3.09 on the smoking dependence scale.
When asked about smoking-related health problems, people with higher levels of knowledge about human health reported better understanding of health risks than people with lower levels of health knowledge.
The study authors concluded that poor understanding of human health and smoking-related health problems might explain why smoking dependence has been higher in low income, low education and minority groups.
“Current methods of teaching individuals about the health risks of smoking may fail to reach individuals with poor health literacy,” the study authors wrote.
The authors recommended that further studies should investigate how to make health information about the dangers of smoking more accessible to everyone regardless of health knowledge.
Over-the-counter smoking cessation methods, such as nicotine patches and gum, can run between $15 and $55 per box depending on nicotine dose, brand and location.
This study was published in May in The American Journal of Public Health.
The National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute provided funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were found.