Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 3/4, August 2005 (
Resisting Gendered Smoking Pressures:
Critical Consciousness as a Correlate
of Women’s Smoking Status
Alyssa N. Zucker,
Abigail J. Stewart,
Cynthia S. Pomerleau,
and Carol J. Boyd
Gender is one of the social structures, along with social class and ethnicity, that shapes
women’s smoking behaviors. We examined how different responses to gender pressures (in-
ternalization and resistance) relate to smoking. We analyzed data from a national random
digit dial survey of 945 women and found that never smokers scored high on resistance to
gender pressure (indicated by high scores on feminist consciousness) and on education and
Body Mass Index; current smokers had the reverse pattern. Ex-smokers scored high on one
measure of resistance (advertising skepticism) and on two measures of internalization (em-
bodied femininity and weight concern); they were also likely to have high household income
and to be European American. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for smok-
ing cessation programs and antismoking campaigns.
KEY WORDS: cigarette smoking; feminist consciousness; advertising skepticism.
The American public has known since 1964
that smoking is a health risk behavior (Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2004a).
Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause
of morbidity and mortality in the United States, and
it results in more than $75 billion in direct costs an-
nually (CDC, 2004b). Yet despite the known risks of
cigarette smoking, approximately 4,000 people un-
der the age of 18 try their ﬁrst cigarette each day,
and roughly 22.5% of the population (20% of women
Department of Psychology, and Program in Women’s Studies,
George Washington University.
Department of Psychology, Program in Women’s Studies, and
Institute for Research on Women and Gender, University of
Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Nicotine Research Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, and
Substance Abuse Research Center, University of Michigan.
School of Nursing and Substance Abuse Research Center, Uni-
versity of Michigan.
To whom correspondence should be addressed at Program in
Women’s Studies, George Washington University, 837 22nd St.
NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20052; e-mail: azucker@
and 25.2% of men) were current smokers as of 2002
(CDC, 2004c). Clearly there is a paradox here: why
would people continue to engage in a behavior that
will contribute to the deterioration of their quality
of life and possibly their early demise? Part of the
answer lies in the fact that nicotine is an addictive
drug, but social structural factors, such as gender,
ethnicity, and social class, also contribute through
their inﬂuence on both the stressors and resources
in individuals’ lives. In this study we examined two
of these social structures (ethnicity and social class)
in terms that are standard, but are not capable of
offering insight into the psychology of smoking be-
havior. We did this knowing that these factors are
important correlates of smoking behavior (and there-
fore must be included), but our focus is on under-
standing some of the reasons that a third structure—
gender—is also an important correlate of smoking
behavior. We examined the potential role of gender-
related pressures for thinness in fostering, and of in-
dividual critical consciousness in constraining, smok-
ing behavior among women.
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.