What is your risk from smoking? Your network knows

How many people will die from tobacco use in developed countries in 2030?

A new study from researchers at the Annenberg School for Communication found that most people—smokers and nonsmokers alike—were nowhere near accurate in their answers to this and other questions about the health effects of smoking. But critically, the study, conducted by doctoral candidate Douglas Guilbeault and Professor Damon Centola, found a way to help people be more accurate in their assessment of smoking’s risks: discussing their ideas with other people. 

hand holding a lit cigarette in foreground, parent holding a toddler and putting out their hand to indicate stop smoking in background.

“We talk a lot today about misinformation, but another problem is misunderstanding,” says Centola. “Even if the information being disseminated is factual, people can nevertheless misunderstand or misinterpret that information.”

The information shared in public health campaigns and on tobacco warning labels is accurate. It has been studied and tested over and over again to ensure it conveys factual information about the deadly effects of smoking. And yet people continue to smoke. Centola and Guilbeault wondered if that could be a problem of misunderstanding.

Read more at Annenberg School for Communication.