Older Smokers More Likely to Deny Habit

Findings challenge validity of self-reported tobacco use in research, care

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THURSDAY, Feb. 14, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Older smokers are more likely than younger ones to deny they smoke when asked about it by doctors and others.

That's the conclusion of a study that analyzed data on 15,182 self-reported "nonsmokers" in the United States who took part in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers found that 8 percent of those self-reported nonsmokers actually were smokers and that smoking denial increased with age.

"Denying smoking overall increased with age from 6 percent of 18 to 34 year olds to 25 percent of the elderly over the age of 75," lead author Monica Fisher, an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University's School of Dental Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

When she and her colleagues analyzed race and gender data, they found that non-Hispanic white men and women followed the overall pattern and had increased denial with age. Smoking denial rates decreased with age among older Mexican-American women, and remained stable over age for Mexican-American men and non-Hispanic black men and women.

In some cases, social taboos may cause older people to deny that they smoke, Fisher said.

She and her colleagues said the findings challenge the validity of utilizing self-reported tobacco use in research projects, surveys of tobacco use in the general public, or in the care of people with chronic diseases related to smoking.

The study was published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about tobacco use and smoking.

SOURCE: Case Western Reserve University, news release, Feb. 7, 2008

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