Moralisation of smoking and stigmatisation of lung cancer patients

Occhipinti, S. (Griffith University), Evenhuis, A. (Griffith University), Tapp, C. (Griffith University), Oaten, M. (Griffith University)

Recent work by Occhipinti and colleagues (2017) suggests that a novel factor associated with stigmatisation of lung cancer patients is the moralisation of smoking. This was examined in 2 further studies. The results of  Study 1 (N = 343) showed that when asked to rate a prototypical lung cancer patient, for both smoking and non-smoking participants moralisation of smoking was associated with increased negative moral emotions (e.g., disgust, contempt, anger) and denial of positive cancer stereotype attributes (i.e., ‘grit’). These effects were not observed when rating a prototypical bowel cancer patient. However, many participants were uncomfortable with the task of rating prototypical cancer patients. In Study 2 (N = 258), vignettes described a person with cancer and lung and bowel  versions were created by adding sentences consistent with each cancer, respectively. Higher levels of moralisation of smoking were again associated with higher levels of negative moral emotions towards the lung cancer patient (no gender effect), but only for participants who were never smokers. These results underline a contradictory aspect of lung cancer stigma whereby patients report strongly stigmatising communication received based on smoking perceptions, while perceivers report discomfort with overt stigmatisation even as covert measures suggest subtle stigmatisation.


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