Smoking and the Emergence of a Stigmatized Social Status

Over time smoking has become more socially unacceptable. More information is needed about the process by which policies, such as smoke-free air laws, and social factors influence the acceptability of smoking.

This article presents findings from a study on smoking-related stigma as perceived by current and former smokers. Data for the study was from the New York Social Environment Study (NYSES). Participants in the study were 816 current and former smokers who were residents of New York City and at least 18 years of age.

Key Findings:                       

  • Participants who perceived higher levels of smoker-related stigma were more likely to report individual attributions, such as bad genes, as reasons for smoking. Those who perceived moderate or high levels of smoking-related stigma also reported fear beliefs about smoking.
  • Participants who reported encountering at least one form of smoker-related discrimination were more likely to perceive higher levels of smoker-related stigma. Social norms, such as friend and family disapproval of smoking, also were related to smoker-related stigma.
  • Participants who were White or had higher levels of education perceived more smoker-related stigma than did Blacks and Latinos or those with less education.

Future research on smoker-related stigma should expand its focus to incorporate the perspectives of nonsmokers.