Which Literacy Skills Are Associated with Smoking?
Published in: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, v. 66, no. 2, Feb. 2012, p. 189-192
Posted on RAND.org on February 01, 2012
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BACKGROUND: Research has demonstrated associations between smoking and reading skills, but other literacy skills such as speaking, listening and numeracy are less studied despite our dependence on the use of numbers and the oral exchange to deliver information on the risks of smoking. METHODS: The authors used multivariable logistic regression to examine the effects of reading, numeracy, speaking and listening skills on: (1) becoming a regular smoker and (2) smoking cessation. Further, multivariable linear regression was used to examine the relation between literacy skills and amount smoked among current smokers. Models controlled for education, gender, age, race/ethnicity, income and, when relevant, age at which they became a regular smoker. RESULTS: For each grade equivalent increase in reading skills, the odds of quitting smoking increased by about 8% (OR=1.08, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.15). For every point increase in numeracy skills, the odds of quitting increased by about 24% (OR=1.24, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.46). No literacy skills were associated with becoming a regular smoker or current amount smoked. CONCLUSION: The ability to locate, understand and use information related to the risks of smoking may impact one's decision to quit. Messaging should be designed with the goal of being easily understood by all individuals regardless of literacy level.