Stigmatizing Smoking Makes Quitting Harder, New Study Finds

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

The 3 Week Diet

Anti-smoking campaigns may actually have the opposite effect to people trying to quit, suggests a new study. The reason being is that stigmatizing smoking makes some people angry and defensive, and the negative messages could therefore lead to poor self-esteem.

Researchers from Brazil and Germany reviewed over 600 articles on smoking self-stigma. While there’s scientific evidence that shows anti-smoking campaigns may help some people quit such a deadly habit, it was found that more positive strategies are more effective. These include reinforcing the benefits of quitting smoking, rather than emphasizing the health consequences.

Hand breaking the last cigarette to stop smoking Hand breaking the last cigarette to stop smoking

“The stereotypes that smokers deal with are almost universally negative,” Sara Evans-Lacko, a researcher from London School of Economics and Political Science said.

One of the studies they reviewed found that 30 to 40 percent of smokers felt high level of social rejection and family disapproval, while 27 percent felt they were treated differently because of their smoking habit. Another research found that 39 percent of smokers believed that people thought less of them.



“The stigma for parents who smoke is particularly strong,” he added.

Other effects of stigmatizing smoking include higher chances of relapse, resistance to quitting, higher stress levels, and self-induced social isolation.

The study review was published in the Social Science & Medicine journal.


Quit Smoking Options

Quitting smoking does have plenty of health benefits, some of them occur just within minutes after the person stops smoking. Long-term benefits of quitting smoking include lower risks of heart disease, cancer, and mortality.

Each year, more and more people attempt to quit smoking but only a small percentage of them succeed in doing so. Nicotine addiction is a serious condition and would often necessitate medical treatments to eliminate. Good thing, there are quit-smoking options that are scientifically proven to work. They include medications like Chantix. Other good strategies are psychotherapy and counseling.

It can be difficult to quit as you have to go through so many challenges, including cigarette cravings and unwanted physical symptoms like headache, burnout, and irritability. The new study suggests that we can focus on the positive aspect of quitting smoking to increase our chances of success. When the going gets tough, think about all the good things that can happen – fresher breath, whiter teeth, younger-looking skin, and healthier body.


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