Poll shows shift in Alaskans' attitudes about smoking

Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2003

ANCHORAGE - A new poll suggests anti-tobacco advertisements are meeting with success in changing Alaskans' attitudes about smoking and tobacco.

More than 80 percent of people interviewed, including smokers and nonsmokers, don't allow smoking anywhere in their home, with no exceptions. That's up almost 13 percent from a similar poll in 2001.

The American Lung Association of Alaska, which commissioned the poll, is publicizing the results as it launches a series of advertisements intended to persuade smokers to quit.

The poll was done to assess the effectiveness of anti-tobacco efforts, including intensive television and radio commercials running for several years. The ads are making a difference, said Shanwne Albright, the Alaska association's director of anti-tobacco marketing.

Pollster Marc Hellenthal, who also conducted similar surveys in 2000 and 2001, agreed. In 11 of 16 questions about attitudes toward smoking, people's views shifted significantly, the new poll found.

"Based on 20 years of surveying, we rarely see that many changes as a result of media efforts, at all," Hellenthal said. "Then to cap it off, behavior even changed."

Hellenthal and Associates conducted the telephone survey of 2,318 adults between Oct. 10 and Dec. 23 in Alaska's urban media markets: Anchorage, the Kenai Peninsula, the Matanuska-Susitna and Fairbanks North Star boroughs and Juneau. The poll had an error margin of 2.04 percent.

The poll showed Alaskans believe secondhand smoke can kill. They want their local communities to do more to discourage tobacco use.

Fewer than 18 percent of people polled say they currently smoke, compared with almost 24 percent in 2001. Statewide, about 25 percent of Alaska adults smoke. That includes rural Alaska, where smoking rates are higher.

More than 45 percent said that if someone next to them were smoking, they would ask him or her to stop. That's up from 36 percent in 2001.

Almost 70 percent of people polled agreed with the idea of controlling smoking in public places, compared with 64 percent a year ago. In Anchorage, a smoking ban in workplaces and enclosed public spaces took effect in 2001.

The number of smokers who say they don't ever intend to quit has dropped dramatically, from close to 36 percent in 2001 to about 25 percent in the recent survey.

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