Concern for smokers who don't understand nicotine

Medical experts warned today that thousands of smokers are jeopardising their chances of quitting successfully. New data presented at the UK National Smoking Cessation Conference (UKNSCC) shows that misconceptions about the role of nicotine are preventing smokers from quitting using nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) that actually increase the chances of quitting for good.

Over two thirds of smokers (69%) incorrectly answered that nicotine in stop smoking aids is as harmful as smoking cigarettes. The researchers are concerned that only 14% of this group planned to use NRT during their next quit attempt. In contrast, 38% of smokers who stated that NRT is less harmful than cigarettes actually planned to use NRT.1

"When you light up, nicotine gives you the hit, but it is the rest of the smoke that does the damage," explains Dr Alex Bobak, who presented the research. "Nicotine is the reason why people crave a cigarette, but it is the other chemicals in each puff that cause cancer and so many other diseases."

Dr Bobak continues, "The fact is NRT is a proven and reliable way to quit because it is designed to gradually reduce your need for nicotine, until you don't need it anymore. Furthermore, it doubles your chances of quitting successfully. These misconceptions are preventing smokers from choosing one of the most successful ways to quit. Instead, many smokers are going cold turkey, which is the hardest and least effective way of kicking the habit."

Nicotine can actually help people stop smoking if they use NRT (e.g. patch, gum or lozenge) by providing nicotine without the cancer-causing smoke. However, the research paints a startling picture of the misconceptions that may stop people from using it to quit with 7 in 10 smokers simply unaware that nicotine in NRT does not cause heart attacks and lung cancer.

Steve Crone, CEO of QUIT, the charity that helps people quit smoking explains, "This data is a matter of serious concern because smokers are denying themselves the best help available. Quitline receives daily calls from smokers who feel they cannot quit unaided but refuse to use NRT because of these misconceptions, which are not based on fact."

The research further shows that:

  • 71% of UK smokers wrongly believe that the nicotine in cigarettes causes lung cancer
  • 62% wrongly believe that the nicotine in cigarettes causes heart attacks and heart disease

Misconceptions about nicotine are higher amongst lower socioeconomic groups than other social classes (72% of smokers in C2/D/E groups wrongly believe stop-smoking aids with nicotine are just as harmful as cigarettes vs 60% in A/B/C1 groups). This is particularly concerning because of the higher smoking prevalence among lower socioeconomic groups.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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