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Research paper
Knowledge of the health impacts of smoking and public attitudes towards tobacco control in the former Soviet Union
  1. Bayard Roberts1,
  2. Andrew Stickley1,2,3,
  3. Anna B Gilmore4,
  4. Kirill Danishevski5,
  5. Kseniya Kizilova6,
  6. Anna Bryden1,
  7. David Rotman7,
  8. Christian Haerpfer8,
  9. Martin McKee1
  1. 1European Centre on Health of Societies in Transition, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2Stockholm Centre on Health of Societies in Transition, Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden
  3. 3Department of Global Health Policy, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
  4. 4Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK
  5. 5Open Health Institute, Moscow, Russia
  6. 6East-Ukrainian Foundation for Social Research, Kharkiv, Ukraine
  7. 7The Center for Sociological and Political Research, Belarussian State University, Minsk, Belarus
  8. 8School of Social Science, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bayard Roberts, European Centre on Health of Societies in Transition, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH, UK; bayard.roberts{at}


Aims To describe levels of knowledge on the harmful effects of tobacco and public support for tobacco control measures in nine countries of the former Soviet Union and to examine the characteristics associated with this knowledge and support.

Methods Standardised, cross-sectional nationally representative surveys conducted in 2010/2011 with 18 000 men and women aged 18 years and older in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. Respondents were asked a range of questions on their knowledge of the health effects of tobacco and their support for a variety of tobacco control measures. Descriptive analysis was conducted on levels of knowledge and support, along with multivariate logistic regression analysis of characteristics associated with overall knowledge and support scores.

Results Large gaps exist in public understanding of the negative health effects of tobacco use, particularly in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova. There are also extremely high levels of misunderstanding about the potential effects of ‘light’ cigarettes. However, there is popular support for tobacco control measures. Over three quarters of the respondents felt that their governments could be more effective in pursuing tobacco control. Higher levels of education, social capital (membership of an organisation) and being a former or never-smoker were associated with higher knowledge on the health effects of tobacco and/or being more supportive of tobacco control measures.

Conclusions Increasing public awareness of tobacco's health effects is essential for informed decision-making by individuals and for further increasing public support for tobacco control measures.

  • Tobacco
  • commonwealth of independent states
  • low-/middle-income countries
  • public opinion
  • public policy

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  • Funding The HITT Project was funded by the European Union's 7th Framework Programme, project HEALTH-F2-2009-223344. The European Commission cannot accept any responsibility for any information provided or views expressed.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval The ethics review board of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.