Harm perception of nicotine products in college freshmen

Stephanie Y. Smith, Barbara Curbow, Frances A. Stillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


This study examined the association of sociodemographic characteristics and smoking behaviors (i.e., cigarette, cigar, and waterpipe) with nicotine product harm perception in college freshmen. Students were asked to compare the perceived harmfulness of 11 nicotine-delivering products with that of a regular cigarette. Data were from a cross-sectional Internet survey conducted during the spring 2004 semester at a private university (N=411). Binomial logistic regression was used to determine the association between sociodemographic and behavioral factors with nicotine product harm perception. A statistically significant association was found between nicotine product harm perception and sex, race, income, citizenship, and smoking behavior (p≤.05). Regarding the three medicinal nicotine replacement therapies, 19.6% of respondents incorrectly perceived the nicotine patch to be as harmful as or more harmful than a regular cigarette; corresponding values were 24.1% for nicotine gum and 52.9% for nicotine inhaler. Respondents incorrectly perceived the following smoked tobacco products to be less harmful than regular cigarettes: ultra-light cigarettes (40.4%), waterpipe (37%), light cigarettes (35.2%), cigarillos (17.4%), and cigars (16.9%). Regarding smokeless nicotine products, 89.3% of respondents incorrectly perceived dip and chew to be as harmful as or more harmful than regular cigarettes; corresponding values were 36.2% for nicotine lollipops and 35.2% for nicotine water. Our findings reveal misperceptions about nicotine product harmfulness and underscore the importance of developing a science base to inform policies and educate consumers about these products.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)977-982
Number of pages6
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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