The Smoking Puzzle: Information, Risk Perception, and Choice

Front Cover

How do smokers evaluate evidence that smoking harms health? Some evidence suggests that smokers overestimate health risks from smoking. This book challenges this conclusion. The authors find that smokers tend to be overly optimistic about their longevity and future health if they quit later in life.

Older adults' decisions to quit smoking require personal experience with the serious health impacts associated with smoking. Smokers over fifty revise their risk perceptions only after experiencing a major health shock--such as a heart attack. But less serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath, do not cause changes in perceptions. Waiting for such a jolt to occur is imprudent.

The authors show that well-crafted messages about how smoking affects quality of life can greatly affect current perceptions of smoking risks. If smokers are informed of long-term consequences of a disease, and if they are told that quitting can indeed come too late, they are able to evaluate the risks of smoking more accurately, and act accordingly.

 

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Contents

Government Policy and Advertising as Sources
46
Can Smokers Expect Personal Health Signals? An Evaluation
72
Determinants of Risk Perception
94
Do Health Shocks Influence Smoking Behavior?
129
Personalized Health Messages and
157
Risk Longevity Expectations and Demand
180
Conclusions and Policy Implications
217
Notes
243
References
253
Index
269
Copyright

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About the author (2003)

Frank A. Sloan is J. Alexander McMahon Professor of Health Policy and Management and Professor of Economics, Duke University.

V. Kerry Smith is University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, North Carolina State University.

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