“A smoker among smokers”: the importance of social norms and group identification in smoking behavior

  • S. Pereira
  • L. Lima
  • P. Vitória
  • H. de Vries


Background: The present study has two main goals. First, we aim to access groups that are associated with smoking and non-smoking behavior. Second, we aim to examine whether identification with smokers moderates the relationship between social norms and smoking behavior, hypothesizing identifiers present a stronger relationship than nonsmokers. Methods: A total of 112 participants completed the online questionnaire (72.7% women; MAge=33.03, SD=10.24 years). Participants were asked to name groups associated with smoking and non-smoking behavior and perceived descriptive norms, identification with smokers and smoking behavior were measured. Findings: Groups most associated with smoking behavior were youth, students and people who go out at night. Groups most associated with non-smoking behavior were athletes and sports people. Higher perceived descriptive norms (i.e. the more participants perceive that others smoke) (b=.360, SEb=.055, β=.269, p<.001) and higher identification with smokers (b=.445, SEb=.201, β=1.202, p<.001) were associated with greater number of cigarettes smoked. The interaction between perceived descriptive norms and identification with smokers was also significant (b=.195, SEb=.027, β=.069, p=.011), showing that the more they perceive that others smoke the more they smoke themselves, and that relationship is even stronger the more they identify with smokers. Discussion: Results show the importance of social relationships at group level on smoking. Specifically, the perceptions about the behavior of others and the level of identification with groups can have an impact on behaviors that influence health, such as smoking. Therefore, it is essential to take into account these relationships when designing interventions in order to improve their effectiveness.
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