Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours


School of Psychology and Social Sciences


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Eyal Gringart

Second Advisor

Dr Shelley Beatty


Tobacco smoking has been classified as the single most preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. It has been estimated that 19,000 Australians die each year as a result of smoking tobacco. The highest level of smoking prevalence in Australia is among young adults aged between 20 and 29 years. While the pleasurable short-term effects of nicotine help to reinforce smoking behaviour, the long-term effects of the harmful chemicals in tobacco pose significant health hazards. This review provides background information on the effects of smoking and nicotine dependence, and discusses the individual and social costs related to tobacco smoking. Adapting a social psychological perspective and harnessing the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) (Ajzen, 1991) as well as Social Identity Theory (SIT) (Tajfel, 1982), show promise in providing more comprehensive explanations for tobacco smoking. This review demonstrates whilst there is substantial knowledge of smoking initiation among adolescents, there is relatively little known about smoking maintenance among young adults even though of all age groups, this is the age that shows the highest smoking prevalence. Future research could investigate smoking maintenance among young adults from a social psychological perspective. The current study explored the relationship between tobacco smoking and normative beliefs and drew on components of the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) (Ajzen, 1991) and Social Identity Theory (SIT) (Tajfel, 1982) to help understand smoking behaviour in young adults. Participants were 202 undergraduate students, aged between 20 and 29 years, who completed a survey instrument which asked about beliefs and perceptions of smoking. Based on previous research with adolescents, the current study hypothesised that young adult' overestimations of smoking prevalence would be positively correlated with their smoking behaviour. Further, it was hypothesised that young adults' smoking behaviour would be congruent with the principles of both the TPB and SIT. An additional research question asked whether social identity could predict smoking behaviours in young adults. The results identified three predictors of smoking status in young adults, namely social identity, perceived behavioural control (PBC) and personal attitudes toward smoking. There are several implications of the findings with regards to policy and legislations on tobacco use, as well as health promotion campaigns. Recommendations for future research are considered.