Friday, July 11, 2008

Optimistic Bias towards Quitting Smoking

Often non-smokers will say to a smoker,
"Don't you know that smoking causes lung cancer?" (Or one of the other horrible diseases that smoking is link to).
Oh course the smoker knows this information but unfortunately, information alone is insufficient to change behavior. Too many smokers have an optimistic bias that they will be one of the ones to escape damage from smoking or that they will quit before any damage is done. The first step to quitting is to build desire and that stems from a conflict in values that the smoker deems important. One of the worst things that happens is when the smoker visits his or her doctor and the doctor says,
"You're lungs sound fine." What the smoker hears is that their smoking has done no damage. Instead of loading the smoker up with "information", listen to what is really important in their life and see if it is in conflict with smoking. Yesterday, a client, Steve, was talking to me about his friend, Eric, who smokes. Steven had quit smoking years ago and asked Eric if he had a death wish by continuing to smoke. I told Steve that was his reason for quitting but it might not be a good reason for Eric. Eric teaches music at a local organization. I told Steve that what might work better is to ask Eric what kind of role model he is providing to his students if they knew he was smoking. Eric values his relationship with his students and that might be more motivating that focusing on the health effects. To build desire, focus on what is important to the smoker instead of just giving them information.

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