Researchers surveying pet owners living in Michigan, USA, found that one in three of the smokers said knowing smoking was bad for their pet's
health would make them quit and about one in ten said this would make them ask other smokers they lived with to quit.
The study was carried out by researchers from the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, and is published online on 10 February in the BMJ journal Tobacco Control.
Although studies show that second hand smoke harms humans and animals, there is not a lot of information on the proportion of pet owners who either smoke themselves or allow others to smoke in their homes.
Second hand smoke has been linked with lymph gland, nasal, and lung cancers, plus a range of allergies, diseases of eye and skin, and respiratory problems in cats and dogs.
For this study, the researchers carried out a web-based survery of 3,293 adult pet owners living in the state of Michigan, USA. They asked them about their smoking status, whether any people living with them smoked, whether they allowed smoking in the home or not, and how knowing about the effects of second hand smoke on animal health would change their intentions about smoking and their smoking policies.
The results showed that:
- 21 per cent of the respondents were current smokers.
- 27 per cent of the respondents lived with at least one other person who smoked.
- 28.4 per cent of respondents who smoked said that knowing about the risks of second hand smoke to animal health would make them try to quit.
- 8.7 per cent of respondents said knowing about the risks of second hand smoke to animal health would make them ask co-habitant smokers to quit.
- 14.2 per cent said that knowing about the risks of second hand smoke to animal health would make them change their smoking policy to ban smoking indoors.
- 16.4 per cent of respondents who were non-smokers but lived with smokers said they would ask their co-habitants to quit.
- 24 per cent of non-smokers who lived with smokers said they would be interested in receiving information about smoking, quitting and the effects of second hand smoke.
"Educational campaigns informing pet owners of the risks of SHS [second hand smoke] exposure for pets could motivate some owners to quit smoking. It could also motivate these owners and non-smoking owners who cohabit with smokers make their homes smoke-free."
They said that pet owners are a devoted bunch and would make good targets for anti-smoking public health campaigns that focus on the effects of second hand smoke on animals.
Nearly two thirds of US homes has at least one pet, and Americans spend about 10 billion dollars a year on pet supplies.
But the depth of devotion that Americans have for their pets is perhaps reflected in the results of a recent survey referred to by the authors as carried out by the American Animal Hospital Association where half the respondents are reported to have said if they were stranded on a desert island they would prefer to have their pet with them rather than another person.
"Pet owners' attitudes and behaviours related to smoking and second-hand smoke: a pilot study."
S M Milberger, R M Davis, A L Holm.
Tobacco Control online first, February 2009.
Click here for Tobacco Control online first.
Sources: Journal abstract, BMJ press release.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD