240529 Attitudes toward Smoking vs. Attitudes toward Smokers: Implications for Measuring Social Norms about Tobacco Use

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Michael Johns, PhD , Bureau of Tobacco Control, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, NY
Shannon M. Farley, MPH , Bureau of Tobacco Control, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, NY
Micaela H. Coady, MS , Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Tobacco Control, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, NY
Social norms are shared beliefs about the acceptability of particular behaviors and attitudes. Tobacco researchers are increasingly recognizing that social norms are useful constructs to measure when assessing the effectiveness of tobacco control policies (e.g., Biener, et al. 2010). Measuring social norms about smoking can be complicated by beliefs about why people smoke, however. In 2010, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene conducted a phone-based tobacco public opinion survey of 1,447 randomly selected adult New Yorkers. Several questions were designed to measure social norms using attitudes toward smoking and smokers. Respondents overwhelmingly agreed that the smoking is an unattractive behavior (76%), suggesting a strong non-smoking norm. However, they were less likely to say they would think less of someone who smokes (29%) or that smokers can not be good role models (31%). These diverging perceptions of smoking and smokers can be interpreted using attribution theory (Wiener, 1985). Most respondents view smoking as an addiction (60%) rather than a choice or habit, suggesting smoking is difficult for individuals to control. Attribution research shows that norm violators are less likely to be viewed negatively when the cause of norm violating behavior is perceived as low in controllability. Negative attitudes about smoking may not translate into negative views of smokers. This analysis indicates measures of non-smoking norms should focus on smoking behavior and rely less on attitudes toward smokers. Theoretically informed approaches to developing social norm measures for tobacco control research and evaluation will be presented.

Learning Areas:
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
•Explain social norms and how they relate to tobacco control policies. •Demonstrate why attitudes towards smoking can differ from attitudes towards smokers. •Describe how social norms can be effectively measured in tobacco control research and evaluation.

Keywords: Tobacco Control, Evaluation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conduct research on tobacco control policies in New York City
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.