Background: Data from the Scottish Heart Health Study, a random cross-sectional sample of middle-aged men and women, are used to compare health knowledge, behavior, and lifestyles between 4896 smokers and 4595 nonsmokers.
Methods: Smokers are identified from self-reports with biochemical validation. They are compared with nonsmokers using analysis of covariance and logistic regression, adjusting for age and social class.
Results: Smokers are found to have poorer dietary knowledge than nonsmokers, although both groups are well-informed on some aspects of diet. Knowledge of personal risk modifiers for coronary heart disease and recent intention to improve lifestyle are both worse among smokers. Smokers have lower intakes of the antioxidant vitamins and fiber, but higher intakes of dietary cholesterol and alcohol than nonsmokers. They also tend to have higher salt intake and eat a greater proportion of saturated fat, butter, or hard margarine, and full-fat milk. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels are lower, but triglycerides, fibrinogen, and, for women only, total serum cholesterol levels are higher among smokers. On the other hand, body mass index and diastolic blood pressure are lower among smokers.
Conclusions: In addition to advice to give up smoking, smokers should be counseled to improve their diet. The positive message to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables would be particularly helpful.