Adolescents' smoking behavior and risk perceptions

J Subst Abuse. 1991;3(3):315-24. doi: 10.1016/s0899-3289(10)80015-x.


Risk-perception theory, derived largely from studies of technological risk assessment by Slovic and associates (Slovic, 1987; Slovic, Fischhoff, & Lichtenstein, 1986), may assist in understanding the risks seen to be associated with health-related behaviors. Risk perceptions, and their relationship to different stages of the acquisition of smoking behavior, were examined in a sample of 205 Australian high school students who were in Grades 10 and 11, and had an average age of 15 years. Current smokers differed from experimenters, ex-smokers, and never smokers on a number of factors that are argued to underlie perceptions of risk: They perceived less personal risk, less severe health consequences, greater benefits relative to risks, found it more difficult to picture harmful consequences to themselves, and perceived smoking to be less avoidable. Implications for understanding and for dealing with the initiation and maintenance of smoking behavior in adolescence are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Education
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / psychology
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Smoking Prevention