Smokers more likely to quit smoking for their pets

BBC news
10 April 2011

Smokers are more likely to kick the habit to safeguard their pet's health than their own, US researchers say.

A survey of 3,300 pet owners found 28% of those who smoked would try to quit when told about the effects of passive smoking on their pets. Other research has found exposure to smoke is linked with some cancers and other health problems in cats and dogs. Yet few smokers realise the impact their habit has on their pets, the researchers wrote in Tobacco Control.

Several studies have linked smoke exposure with lymphoma in cats and nasal and lung cancer in dogs, the researchers said. There have also been reports of allergic reactions in dogs, eye disease, respiratory problems and skin problems in birds and oral cancer in cats.

Smoking behaviour

The researchers from the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit set up an online survey to investigate smoking behaviour in the home and knowledge of the effects of second-hand smoke on their pets.

One in five respondents were smokers and more than one in four lived with at least one smoker. The average number of cigarettes smoked was 13.5 a day, with around half of those smoked in the home. Among those who smoked, 28.4% said that knowing that smoking was bad for their pets' health would spur them to give it up.

And 8.7% said this would prompt them to ask their partners to quit, while around one in seven said they would tell their partner to smoke outdoors.

Among non-smokers, more than 16% said they would ask their partner to quit, and one in four said they would tell their partner to smoke outdoors. The researchers said pet owners were a "devoted" bunch and public health campaigns would do well to focus on the detrimental impact of second-hand tobacco smoke on pets.

Study leader, Dr Sharon Milberger, said they were now doing further research to look at whether people actually quit when given information about the adverse effects on the health of their pets.

"Two out of three people in the US have pets and pet owners love their pets so it could be an interesting way of reaching out to people." Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said it was an "interesting idea". "It is clear that people are prepared to give up some of the things they like doing if they think it is harming others. "The fact that 28% would consider giving up for the sake of their pet, that's something that might be useful for those preparing advice and and guidance for people."


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