Measuring Cigarette Smoking Risk Perceptions

Annette R. Kaufman, Jenny E. Twesten, Jerry Suls, Kevin D. McCaul, Jamie S. Ostroff, Rebecca A. Ferrer, Noel T. Brewer, Linda D. Cameron, Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, Jennifer L. Hay, Elyse R. Park, Ellen Peters, David R. Strong, Erika A. Waters, Neil D. Weinstein, Paul D. Windschitl, William M.P. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Risk perception is an important construct in many health behavior theories. Smoking risk perceptions are thoughts and feelings about the harms associated with cigarette smoking. Wide variation in the terminology, definition, and assessment of this construct makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the associations of risk perceptions with smoking behaviors. To understand optimal methods of assessing adults' cigarette smoking risk perceptions (among both smokers and nonsmokers), we reviewed best practices from the tobacco control literature, and where gaps were identified, we looked more broadly to the research on risk perceptions in other health domains. Based on this review, we suggest assessments of risk perceptions (1) about multiple smoking-related health harms, (2) about harms over a specific timeframe, and (3) for the person affected by the harm. For the measurement of perceived likelihood in particular (ie, the perceived chance of harm from smoking based largely on deliberative thought), we suggest including (4) unconditional and conditional items (stipulating smoking behavior) and (5) absolute and comparative items and including (6) comparisons to specific populations through (7) direct and indirect assessments. We also suggest including (8) experiential (ostensibly automatic, somatic perceptions of vulnerability to a harm) and affective (emotional reactions to a potential harm) risk perception items. We also offer suggestions for (9) response options and (10) the assessment of risk perception at multiple time points. Researchers can use this resource to inform the selection, use, and future development of smoking risk perception measures. Implications: Incorporating the measurement suggestions for cigarette smoking risk perceptions that are presented will help researchers select items most appropriate for their research questions and will contribute to greater consistency in the assessment of smoking risk perceptions among adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1937-1945
Number of pages9
JournalNicotine and Tobacco Research
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Measuring Cigarette Smoking Risk Perceptions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this