Background: This study examined beliefs about potential risk-reduction strategies for tobacco users among a large group of young adults. Strategies examined included switching to low-yield cigarettes, replacing cigarettes with cigars, switching from cigarettes to smokeless tobacco, adopting a healthy diet, and engaging in regular exercise.
Methods: One-year longitudinal survey of 36,012 young adults (mean 20.1 years) entering the U.S. Air Force from October 1999 to September 2000.
Results: Smokers generally rated the strategies as providing more risk-reduction potential than never smokers or ex-smokers, although the group differences were small. Diet, exercise, and switching to low-yield cigarettes were rated as providing the most health benefits, regardless of smoking status. Smokers who had either changed their diet or exercise to lower their risks from smoking had significantly lower perceived personal risk of developing a tobacco-related disease than other smokers. Smokers who believed that switching to smokeless tobacco would lower the health risks associated with smoking were more likely, while smokers reporting switching to low-yield cigarettes were significant less likely, to quit during a 1-year follow-up period.
Conclusions: Beliefs about the risk-reduction benefits of both changes in tobacco use and health behaviors may impact tobacco use attitudes and practices.