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Smokers Mistakenly Believe Vitamins Protect Them From Cancer

FRIDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Smokers who take a multivitamin pill may think they can smoke more because the supplement protects them from the harmful affects of cigarettes, according to a new study.

Researchers found that some people who smoke mistakenly believe the vitamins will reduce their risk of cancer, allowing them to light up more often. The study noted that such trading of a virtuous behavior for a subsequent indulgence, known as the "licensing effect," could undermine smokers' urge to kick the addiction.

"Smokers who take dietary supplements can fool themselves into thinking they are protected against cancer and other diseases. Reminding health-conscious smokers that multivitamins don't prevent cancer may help them control their smoking or even encourage them to stop," said the study's lead author, Wen-Bin Chiou in a journal news release.

The study, published online Aug. 2 in the journal Addiction, involved two experiments. In the first experiment, a group of 74 daily smokers were given a placebo (dummy) pill, but half were told they were taking a vitamin C pill. After taking the pills, the smokers were allowed to smoke freely as they took an unrelated hour-long survey.

Researchers found the smokers who thought they had taken vitamins smoked nearly twice as many cigarettes than those who knew they took the placebo. They also reported having greater feelings of invincibility.

In the second study, 80 smokers were also given a placebo, with half being told they were taking a multivitamin. Afterwards, they were allowed to smoke while they took a survey, which contained questions about their attitudes towards multivitamins.

Not only did those who took multivitamins smoke more, but those who reported believing in the health benefits of vitamins had a greater surge in their feelings of invincibility and smoked still more than those who were less optimistic about the vitamins' effects.

The study's authors concluded health-conscious smokers who take vitamins may wrongly feel less vulnerable to the harmful effects of cigarettes. As a result, the researchers added, they may smoke more, increasing their overall health risks.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on how to quit smoking.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Wiley-Blackwell, news release, Aug. 2, 2011

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