Even if smokers are not willing to quit the cancer-inducing habit for their own health, they may be persuaded by their pets, according to a survey.
Twenty-eight percent of cigarette-puffing pet owners said they would stop smoking after they learned of their addictions’ effects on their animals, according to a study by the Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Detroit.
The results of the survey were released earlier this week.
According to the BBC, smoke exposure has been linked to lymphoma in cats and nasal and lung cancer in dogs. The study also explored reports of dogs’ allergic reactions to second-hand smoke, affected birds’ subsequent development of eye diseases, and exposed cats’ susceptibility to oral cancer.
The online study surveyed nearly 3,300 pet owners; one in five respondents were smokers, while more than one in four lived with at least one smoker.
The average number of cigarettes smoked a day was 13.5; around half of the smokers lit up at home.
Yet the smokers appeared willing to change their habits for their pets’ health.
Aside from the 28.4 percent who said that they would personally give up smoking, an additional 8.7 percent of the respondents said the information would prompt them to ask their partners to quit. One in seven said they would ask their partners or roommates to smoke outdoors.
“Clearly, people love their pets,” study author Sharon Milberger told CNN. “This may be a way to reach them.”
“Two out of three people in the U.S. have pets and pet owners love their pets so it could be an interesting way of reaching out to people,”
Kings’ College of London Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health, told the BBC.
He also noted that the study was an “interesting idea.”
“It is clear that people are prepared to give up some of the things they like doing if they think it is harming others.”
Questions still remain over the universality of the study’s results, given the majority of participants were from Michigan; moreover, the researchers cannot ascertain whether the pet owners who say they will quit smoking will actually do so.
The researchers plan to follow up with an additional study which would track the pet owners’ progress in quitting.
“What people say and do are two different things, but it’s an opportunity for additional research,” Milberger said. “We’ll have to get a better sense of how this information could motivate people, but it potentially could be a way to target smokers from a new angle.”
According to The Examiner, researchers believe that cats in smoking households can be exposed to carcinogens through their fur; daily grooming can also expose their skin to the poison.
Dogs, according to a study at Colorado State University, have a higher rate of nasal cavity tumors. Dogs with longer noses, like Collies, for example, may be at a greater risk for developing the tumors — their elongated nasal passages, replete with a larger surface area, could attract more carcinogens.
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