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Risk to Pets Motivates Smokers to Quit

Survey Shows Smokers Would Quit to Protect Pets From Secondhand Smoke
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD


Feb. 9, 2009 -- Smokers are motivated to quit the habit to protect their pets from secondhand smoke, a new survey shows.

Researchers led by Sharon M. Milberger, ScD, of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, found that 28.4% of smokers who participated in an online survey said learning that secondhand smoke was bad for their pet's health would motivate them to quit. And 8.7% said knowing the potential adverse health effects of secondhand smoke would spur them to ask their partners to quit.

The results are published in Tobacco Control, a BMJ specialty publication. The researchers write that 3,300 people responded to an online survey for pet owners; 66% were dog owners, 53% kept cats, and 10% had birds. Most of the survey participants were white females from Michigan.

Sixteen percent of nonsmoking pet owners living with smokers reported they would ask their partners to quit smoking to keep their dog, cat, or bird away from secondhand smoke if they had information about the pet dangers of secondhand smoke. Another 24% said they'd tell their smoking partners to go outside to smoke.

The survey shows that about 40% of smokers -- and 24% of nonsmokers living with smokers -- said they'd like to know more about the effects of smoking, secondhand smoke, and how to kick the habit.

The researchers say public health campaigns aimed at getting people to quit might benefit from reminding smokers that breathing secondhand smoke is unhealthy for their pets as well as for people.

Published evidence is convincing that secondhand smoke is dangerous not only for humans, but for pets, too, according to the article.

Exposure to tobacco smoke has been associated with certain cancers in dogs and cats, allergies in dogs, and eye and skin diseases and respiratory problems in birds, according to the researchers.

"This new source of motivation could be particularly strong for smokers who, aside from their companion animals, live alone," the researchers suggest.

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