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Drug Alcohol Rev. 2010 Mar;29(2):121-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2009.00143.x.

University faculty perceptions of the health risks related to cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

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Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, School of Public Health and Information Sciences, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40202, USA.



It is now widely understood by tobacco research and policy experts that smokeless tobacco (ST) use confers significantly less risk than smoking, but no studies have assessed tobacco risk perceptions in highly educated populations. The purpose of this study was to explore the perception of risks related to smoking and ST use among full-time faculty on two campuses at the University of Louisville.


In October 2007, a survey that quantified risk perceptions of cigarette smoking and ST use with respect to four health domains (general health, heart attack/stroke, all cancer, oral cancer) was sent to 1610 full-time faculty at the Belknap and the Health Sciences Center (HSC) campuses of the University of Louisville, and 597 (37%) returned a completed survey.


Overall, cigarettes were considered as high risk for all health domains by large majorities (75-97%). Except for heart attack/stroke, ST was also considered as high risk by the majority of faculty (69-87%), and at least half perceived cigarettes and ST to be equally harmful across all domains. HSC faculty had somewhat more accurate risk perceptions than Belknap faculty for ST, but both groups overestimated the risks, especially for oral cancer.


This study found that the risks of ST use are overestimated and conflated to that of cigarettes among highly educated professionals, demonstrating the need for better education about the risks of tobacco use and for communication of accurate information by health organisations and agencies.

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