Majority Of U.S. Adult Smokers Regret Starting, Tobacco Study Finds

A majority of adult smokers in the United States regret ever starting, according to a study led by tobacco researchers from the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

The study also found that smokers who believe smoking is risky for health or who worry about getting lung cancer are more likely to regret picking up the habit.

“It is important for smoking intervention programs to communicate not only the health risks associated with smoking, but also the addiction risk and the psychological distress that results from not being able to control a behavior that one regrets initiating,” stated the researchers from the school’s Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS).

To examine the relationship between regret and smoker characteristics, such as quit history, perceived addiction to cigarettes, risk perceptions and beliefs at the time of smoking initiation, researchers measured data from the 2014 Tobacco Products and Risk Perceptions Survey. The study sample size consisted of 1,331 American adults who were smokers when they took part in the study.

Pratibha Nayak

Dr. Pratibha Nayak

The results of the study are published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in the article “Regretting Ever Starting to Smoke: Results from a 2014 National Survey.” The study’s lead author is Dr. Pratibha Nayak, a postdoctoral researcher with TCORS.

More than 71 percent of the survey-takers, many of whom were older and non-Hispanic whites, reported they regretted having ever started smoking, according to the study’s findings. The survey also showed that smokers with a high intention to quit and people who perceive a risk of being diagnosed with lung cancer during their lifetime were more likely to regret their decision to start smoking than others. These smokers reported they feel addicted and worry about the impact of smoking on their health.

“All individuals, young and old, including non-smokers, need to be made aware of the overwhelming regret and dissatisfaction that smokers experience in association with their decision to smoke,” the researchers stated.

“The present findings support the inclusion of smoker regret in cost-benefit analyses of tobacco control regulatory actions,” they said.

The study’s authors also included Dr. Terry Pechacek, professor of health management and policy at Georgia State University; Dr. Michael Eriksen, dean of Georgia State’s School of Public Health; and Dr. Paul Slovic with the University of Oregon.

TCORS, which was established at Georgia State in 2013, takes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the human and economic factors that contribute to tobacco use. The Center seeks to generate research to inform government regulation of tobacco products to protect public health.

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