Assessing the knowledge of the potential harm to others caused by second-hand smoke and its impact on protective behaviours at home

Karen Evans, Michelle Sims, Ken Judge, Anna Gilmore

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Background Smokers' knowledge of the risks of second-hand smoke (SHS) and the role this plays in implementing behaviours to reduce the SHS exposure of others have not been thoroughly explored. Mass media health promotion is used to promote behaviour change partly by providing information on the consequences of behaviour. In England, between 2003 and 2006, frequent mass media campaigns highlighted the toxicity of SHS.

Objectives To examine peoples' knowledge of SHS-related illnesses in England over time, identify the determinants of good knowledge and to assess its importance in predicting SHS-protective behaviours.

Methods Statistical analysis of repeat cross-sectional data (1996–2008) from the Omnibus Survey to explore the trends and determinants of knowledge of SHS-related illnesses and the determinants of SHS-protective behaviours.

Results Only 40% of smokers had ‘good’ knowledge of SHS-related illnesses compared with 65% of never smokers. Knowledge increased markedly when frequent SHS-related mass media campaigns (2003–06) ran, compared with earlier years (1996–2002). Smokers with better knowledge were more likely to have smoke-free homes [odds ratio (OR): 1.10, 1.04–1.16] and abstain from smoking in a room with children (OR: 1.11, 1.09–1.14).

Conclusions The low levels of knowledge of some SHS-related conditions, especially among smokers, and the relationship between knowledge and SHS-protective behaviours, suggest that greater efforts to educate smokers about the risks associated with SHS are worthwhile.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-194
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Public Health
Issue number2
Early online date26 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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