'Hard core' smokers response to the Quit! Message: Rationalisations to relieve cognitive dissonance

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Business and Public Management


School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure




Brown, D., & Henley, N. (2005). 'Hard core' smokers response to the Quit! Message: Rationalisations to relieve cognitive dissonance. In proceedings of the 2nd Australian Nonprofit and Social Marketing Conference. Melbourne, VIC: Deakin University


We investigated 'hard core', 40-50 year old smokers' rationalisations to relieve cognitive dissonance resulting from threat appeals in anti-smoking messages. This age group of smokers has received relatively little attention in the social marketing literature to date, perhaps because their 'hard core' attitudes are perceived as difficult to change. Four focus groups were conducted with male and female, 40 to 50 year old regular smokers. Participants were asked to discuss a range of topics, for instance, how they felt about anti-smoking messages; what they thought about anti-smoking messages and what their behaviour was in response to anti-smoking messages. Participants rationalized to reduce cognitive dissonance by changing a dissonant causing element (e.g., rationalising that premature death from smoking in the present was preferable to a miserable old age), adding to a dissonant causing element (e.g., citing someone who has smoked for 50 years and is still healthy) or behaviourally eliminating the dissonant causing element (e.g., deciding to cut down). Further research should determine whether specific messages could successfully undermine and replace the prevalent rationalisations of older, 'hard core' smokers.