Abstract

The present study assessed smokers' beliefs about the health risks of smoking and the benefits of smoking filtered and low-tar cigarettes, and their awareness of and interest in trying so-called reduced-risk tobacco products. Results were based on a nationally representative random-digit-dialed telephone survey of 1,046 adult (aged 18 years or older) current cigarette smokers. Data were gathered on demographic characteristics, tobacco use behaviors, awareness and use of nicotine medications, beliefs about the health risks of smoking, content of smoke and design features of cigarettes, and the safety and efficacy of nicotine medications. In addition, respondents were asked about their interest in and perceived ability to stop smoking and about their desire for more information about the health risks of smoking. Smokers were least knowledgeable about low-tar and filter cigarettes (65% of responses were incorrect or “don't know”) and most knowledgeable about the health risks of smoking (39% of responses were incorrect or “don't know”). The smokers' characteristics most commonly associated with misinformation when all six indices were combined into a summary index were as follows: those aged 45 years or older, smokers of ultralight cigarettes, smokers who believe they will stop smoking before they experience a serious health problem caused by smoking, smokers who have never used a stop-smoking medication, and smokers with a lower education level. Those who believed they would stop smoking in the next year were more knowledgeable about smoking. Some 77% of respondents reported a desire for additional information from tobacco companies on the health dangers of smoking. The present findings demonstrate that smokers are misinformed about many aspects of the cigarettes they smoke and stop-smoking medications and that they want more information about ways to reduce their health risks.