February 10, 2009

Many People Would Quit Smoking To Protect Pets

U.S. researchers said on Monday that many people unwilling to quit smoking are more likely to quit smoking for the sake of their pets' health than they are for their own.

A Web-based survey of 3,293 U.S. pet owners, mostly from Michigan, showed that 28 percent of pet owners who smoke said they would try to quit based on knowledge that second-hand smoke could harm their dogs, cats and other pets.

The researchers wrote in the journal Tobacco Control that another 11 percent said they would think about quitting.

Sharon Milberger of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, who led the research, told Reuters the findings don't necessarily mean that people love their pets more than they love themselves or their children.

"It's just another motivational factor for people to consider quitting smoking," she said.

Asking smokers to quit for the sake of their pets may be an appealing new way to get them to throw away their cigarettes, she added. Milberger estimated that among the 71 million pet owners in the United States, about a fifth are smokers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that just fewer than 20 percent of Americans smoke tobacco products.

Studies indicate second-hand smoke can raise a pet's risk of lung cancer and other forms of cancer, allergies, eye and skin diseases and respiratory problems.

The study found that 16 percent of nonsmokers who owned pets and lived with someone who did smoke would ask that person to quit and 24 percent said they would tell the smoker to light up outside instead of indoors.

Milberger said it would be hard to believe that there are any smokers out there now who don't know that smoking is bad for them and the people around them.

The authors wrote: "Public health campaigns targeting smokers would do well to focus on the detrimental impact of second hand tobacco smoke on pets."

U.S. pet owners are clearly a very devoted bunch, they say, which such campaigns could tap into.

Milberger said tobacco control advocates can now have vets and kennels and pet supply stores on their side.

"For instance, when someone takes Fluffy in to the vet, the vet can ask them about their smoking behavior and whether they allow smoking in their home," said Milberger, a nonsmoker with a 1-year-old cat.

The American Animal Hospital Association released a survey in 2008 that showed more than half of the respondents said that if they were stranded on a desert island, they would prefer the company of their pet to that of another person.


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