Perceptions of immunity to disease in adult smokers

J Behav Med. 1989 Jun;12(3):267-77. doi: 10.1007/BF00844871.


Public education has ensured smokers' awareness of the health risks of smoking. It has been suggested that engaging in a behavior (e.g., smoking) which one knows to be dangerous will result in an unpleasant state of "cognitive dissonance." Smokers may deal with such a state by denying the dangers of smoking. In this study, 97 smokers and 95 nonsmokers (age range, 15-65 years) rated the risk to themselves and to the average Australian smoker of contracting three smoking-related diseases. Evidence supportive of denial of risk was found: smokers' ratings of the risk to the average smoker were lower than nonsmokers' ratings, and smokers' ratings of their own risk were lower still. Such denial of risk may undermine the effectiveness of stop-smoking campaigns which focus on health aspects of smoking, and methods of dealing with this problem are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Australia
  • Cognitive Dissonance*
  • Denial, Psychological
  • Female
  • Health Education
  • Heart Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Prevention