October 1, 2005
Countering Tobacco Myths
The Marlboro man is a larger-than-life figure of independence and self-reliance - but he's not real. He is a myth, just an advertising figure designed to sell cigarettes. Like the Marlboro man, much of what we believe about tobacco is myth. It seems to be real but, in fact, distracts us from the actual addiction and disease caused by tobacco. Let's look at three common tobacco myths.
Myth #1 - People have free choice whether or not to smoke.
Fact: Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. Tobacco companies call cigarettes "nicotine delivery systems" and have used growing methods and additives to increase nicotine content. Then they work very hard to convince people to smoke their deadly product. In 2002 tobacco companies spent $12.5 billion in the United States on advertising, twice what they spent in 1997.
Myth #2 - Everyone knows how bad smoking is.
Fact: One would think that, by now, everyone knows about the diseases caused by tobacco. Yet many people believe chew is healthier than cigarettes despite the many cancers and other health problems it causes. Many women are unaware that tobacco increases the risk of cervical cancer, miscarriages and infertility. Most people don't realize tobacco is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Myth #3 - It's easy to stop smoking. If people want to quit, they will.
Fact: Overcoming the addictive nature of nicotine is really tough. Most people who quit for good have tried to quit several times. Most smokers want to quit, and try to at least once a year. Less than 7% of people who try to quit cold turkey are successful.
Tobacco education programs, such as BUILT, work to counter these myths with the realities of tobacco addiction and disease.
For help quitting call:
California Smokers Helpline
Source: American Public Health Association, September 2005.