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What Low-income Smokers Have Learned from Public Health Pedagogy: A Narrative Inquiry

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Objectives: Health advocates have been working to educate the public about the harms of smoking for more than 50 years. However, smoking rates have reduced more slowly among people with low incomes. The purpose of this study was to evaluate what low-income smokers have learned from a lifetime of exposure to public health education and how this knowledge may have translated into smoking-related behaviors. Methods: We used narrative inquiry and elicitation interview techniques. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim, coded, and organized into themes using the constant comparative method. Results: All participants were aware of smoking-related harms to health but negative experiences with quitting, cessation medications, and healthcare professionals contributed to avoiding or rejecting educational messages. Participants' perceptions of hypocritical societal tobacco control policies also led some to believe that the harms of tobacco use were exaggerated, or were being used to control or manipulate them. This contributed to a distrust of the government, public health advocates, and healthcare providers. Conclusions: Low-income smokers were aware of the harms of smoking and that quitting would improve their health. Public health advocates should consider developing messages that attempt to foster trust in healthcare professionals and are consistent with low-income adult smokers' quitting experiences.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor, Penn State College of Medicine, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Hershey, PA;, Email: [email protected] 2: Associate Professor, Penn State Harrisburg, School of Behavioral Sciences and Education, Middletown, PA 3: Professor, Penn State College of Medicine, Department of Public Health Sciences, Hershey, PA

Publication date: July 1, 2019

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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