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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)691-704
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Health Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'What Low-income Smokers Have Learned from Public Health Pedagogy: A narrative inquiry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this