Smoking, self-regulation and moral positioning: A focus group study with British smokers from a disadvantaged community

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  • Brendan Gough
  • Marilyn Antoniak
  • Graeme Docherty
  • Martine Stead
  • Ann McNeill

Colleges, School and Institutes


Smoking in many Western societies has become a both moral aand health issue in recent years, but little is known about how smokers position themselves and regulate their behaviour in this context. In this article, we report the findings from a study investigating how smokers from an economically disadvantaged community in the East Midlands (UK) respond to concerns about the health impact of smoking on others. We conducted ten focus group (FG) discussions with mixed groups (by smoking status and gender; N = 58 participants) covering a range of topics, including smoking norms, self-regulation, and smoking in diverse contexts. We transcribed all FG discussions before analysing the data using techniques from discourse anlysis. Smokers in general positioned themselves as socially responsible smokers and morally upstanding citizens. This position was bolstered in two main ways: 'everyday accommodation', whereby everyday efforts to accommodate the needs of non-smokers were referenced, and 'taking a stand', whereby proactive interventions to prevent smoking in (young) others were cited. We suggest that smoking cessation campaigns could usefully be informed by this ethic of care for others.


Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology and Health
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2013