Central Americans Like to Smoke

Just under 33% of the Central American and Dominican populations are smokers and only 20% believe that the cigarette is a drug, a survey presented here Friday by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer reported.

The poll was taken in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic in the second quarter of 2008 with a sample of 2,406 people.

The regional “tobaccometer” survey says that 30 percent consider that giving up smoking is a “difficult” challenge due to nicotine addiction, Pfizer’s Monica Gonzalez said.

About 60 percent of those polled believe that cigarettes affect people around the smoker, and 40 percent never ask those around them if they mind before lighting up.

According to the study, the highest percentage, 60 percent, began smoking between the ages of 15 and 20.

Some 4.6 percent smoke between 30 and 40 cigarettes a day, and 41 percent between one and five a day, the survey says.

Cigarettes are believed to be tranquilizers by 46.6 percent, the same percentage that thinks it takes away hunger, while 33.6 percent say that smokers are rejected because of the smell of tobacco, and 57 percent prefer the existence of smoke-free zones.

Dr. Miguel Angel Garces of Guatemala’s National Anti-Tobacco Council said that many smokers believe that cigarettes are relaxing, but said they are addictive, lethal but legal.

The tobacco business brings in some $17 billion annually worldwide in net profits from cigarette sales, which cause 5.4 million deaths globally, he said.

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