Tobacco’s Harms May Come Sooner Than Smokers Think

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Smokers often think their habit won’t have health consequences until far into the future, a small survey suggests.

Researchers found that compared with nonsmokers, those who smoke generally believe that any health problems — from yellow teeth to lung cancer — would strike later in life.

It’s a perception, researchers said, that might delay some people’s efforts to quit.

Smoking rates in the United States have fallen substantially over the years, noted Dr. Norman Edelman, senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association.

That’s due to efforts like cigarette taxes and, in particular, public education about the many health hazards of tobacco use, said Edelman, who was not involved in the study.

Even so, many people continue to light up.

As of 2016, nearly 38 million Americans said they smoked on at least “some days,” according to a report released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s no secret, Edelman said, that “smokers tend to minimize the health risks.”

And the new findings, recently published online in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology, underscore that view.

“This isn’t surprising,” Edelman said. “But it is important information.”

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SOURCES: Luca Pancani, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, department of psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy; Norman Edelman, M.D., senior scientific advisor, American Lung Association; Dec. 13, 2017, Journal of Cognitive Psychology, online

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