Does It Help Smokers If We Stigmatize Them? A Test of the Stigma-Induced Identity Threat Model Among U.S. and Danish Smokers

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Research shows that smokers feel stigmatized, but does stigmatizing smokers do more harm than good? The model of stigma-induced identity threat was used to experimentally examine how U.S. and Danish smokers respond to stigma-relevant cues. Heavy smokers (112 Americans, 112 Danes) smoked a cigarette while giving a speech that was either video (stigma-visible condition) or audio recorded (stigma-concealed condition). Smokers high in self-concept reacted to the stigma-visible (as opposed to the stigma-concealed) condition with greater physiological reactivity (b = -2.80, p = .05), cognitive depletion (U.S. smokers, b = -0.06, p = .11), self-exempting beliefs (b = 0.32, p < .001), and less interest in stopping smoking (b = 0.28, p = .02). Thus, stigmatization led smokers toward emotional, cognitive, and attitudinal reactions that might make them less likely to quit. Future research should examine when smokers respond to stigmatization by quitting rather than with resistance or indifference.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue number3, Special issue
Pages (from-to)294-313
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 236720747