Background: Previous studies suggest that smokers minimize the personal health risk of smoking. Smokers may not be aware of the various smoking-related disease risks or believe that they are susceptible to them.
Methods: We presented 537 adult treatment-seeking smokers with a list of 34 medical conditions, of which 25 were smoking-related conditions, and 9 were nonsmoking-related items. Subjects were asked to identify which medical conditions were smoking-related, and to rate their perceived risk (using a 7-point Likert scale) of developing various smoking-related conditions if they continued to smoke.
Results: The average percentage of knowledge items correct for each disease category included cardiovascular (93%), pulmonary (94%), oral health diseases (89%), smoking-related cancers (71%), and reproductive risks (44%). Premature death was identified as a risk by 95% of smokers yet only 63.5% reported that disability could also result from smoking. Knowledge was associated with perceived risk of smoking-related illnesses across disease categories.
Conclusions: Knowledge and perceived risk of cardiovascular, pulmonary, and oral disease was high among current smokers; knowledge and perceived risk of reproductive-related problems, and cancers other than lung cancer was much lower. Smokers recognize that smoking may result in premature death, but are less likely to acknowledge that smoking could result in a disability significantly affecting their quality of life.