Poll: Most American Smokers Try to Quit, But Can't
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An overwhelming majority of smokers continue to light up even though they are well aware of the hazards of smoking and most say they want to quit but cannot kick the habit, according to a Harris Poll released on Wednesday.
The poll found that almost everyone who smokes believes that their smoking increases their risk of getting lung cancer (88%), of getting heart disease (84%) and that it will probably shorten their lives (80%).
Eighty percent of the respondents said they tried to stop smoking, but couldn't do it. On average, people who were still smoking said they had tried to stop and failed as many as eight times, according to the poll of 1,011 adults.
``These survey data leave little room to doubt that the power of nicotine addiction is the main reason why smoking has not declined any faster, even though most smokers would like to and try to give it up,'' said Humphrey Taylor, chairman of the Harris Poll.
The nationwide poll was conducted between January 11-15, 2001 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The questions on smoking were included in the annual Harris survey of key health risks and health behaviors.
Dr. Tom Houston, director, of the SmokeLess States National Tobacco Policy Initiative, said the poll is good news because it indicates that more people are taking anti-smoking messages to heart.
The number of smokers who acknowledge the health risks is up from a poll done about four years ago by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, he said in an interview.
``That means that our educational effort, the message that we've been trying to get across is getting through,'' said the Chicago physician.
There are about 50 million smokers in the United States and only about 3 to 5 percent can successfully stop smoking in any given year, he said.
An estimated 430,000 Americans die prematurely each year from tobacco related illnesses, he said.
The SmokeLess States program supports groups working to reduce tobacco use. It is a joint effort between the American Medical Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.