Knowledge and risk perceptions of Israelis towards combustible cigarettes: The need for immediate remedial action

Laura J. Rosen, David A. Rier, Robert Schwartz, Michal Talitman, Lior Zwanziger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Devastation from the tobacco epidemic continues, with strong government tobacco control policy absent in most countries. Knowledge of the full scope of tobacco harm in populations may form the basis for healthier behavior, de-normalization of smoking, and a consensus about necessary public policy. However, many populations may be poorly-informed about the risks, and this ignorance may undermine both effective policy-making and implementation of tobacco control policies. We present knowledge and risk perceptions about smoking tobacco smoke exposure in Israel. Methods: A nationally-representative phone survey was conducted in Israel (n = 505; response rate = 61%). We assessed knowledge about active and passive smoking using four questions, three of which addressed knowledge about harm, and one of which addressed knowledge of tobacco-related harm relative to knowledge of harm due to traffic accidents. The three questions which addressed knowledge of harm were combined into a composite score. We also asked four risk perception questions concerning tobacco smoke exposure, which were measured on a 7-point Likert scale and then combined. Multivariable logistic regression and linear models were used to identify whether smoking status or socio-demographic variables were associated with knowledge of harm, comparative knowledge of harm, and risk perceptions. Results: Just two in five respondents, and one in five respondents who were current smokers, accurately answered three simple questions about harms of smoking. Fewer than three in ten respondents, and fewer than one in five smokers, knew that smoking causes more damage than traffic accidents. Many (30.3%) were unaware that tobacco smoke exposure causes both lung cancer and heart disease, 27.7% did not know that smoking both shortens life and injures quality of life, and 31.1% did not know that smoking-attributable health problems will afflict all or most heavy smokers. Overall, risk perceptions regarding tobacco smoke exposure were high (mean = 24.5, SD:4.5, on a scale of 7-28, with 28 the indicating highest level). Smoking status was consistently associated with lower levels of knowledge, comparative knowledge, and risk perceptions, with current smokers having the lowest levels of knowledge and the lowest risk perceptions. Conclusions: Like many others, Israelis, and particularly Israeli smokers, do not fully grasp tobacco's true dangers. Effective communication of the full range of tobacco risks to the public, with a focus on communication with smokers, is an essential component of comprehensive tobacco control policy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 14 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Author(s).


This study was supported by a grant from the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research.

FundersFunder number
Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research


    • Knowledge
    • Risk perceptions
    • Secondhand smoke
    • Smoking
    • Tobacco


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