Background: The prevalence of smoking in the general US population has declined significantly over the past few decades. Despite this, few studies have examined changes in cigarette attributes perceived by less educated, rural, or southern populations.
Methods: A survey was administered to individuals in clinic waiting rooms of two small cities in northwest Georgia in 1986-1987 and 1997-1998.
Results: Smokers surveyed in 1997-1998 ascribed more positive characteristics and fewer health risks and other negative characteristics to smoking than did smokers surveyed in 1986-1987. However, nonsmokers in 1997-1998 were more likely than nonsmokers in 1986-1987 to consider smoking to be negative and offensive, and ex-smokers in the second survey were more likely than ex-smokers in the first survey to consider smoking to be addictive.
Conclusions: While substantial successes have been made in improving smoking cessation rates nationally, efforts to further reduce rates by changing smokers' perceptions may require new strategies for some populations.