Objective. Compensatory health beliefs (CHBs) are defined as beliefs that negative consequences of unhealthy behaviours can be compensated for by engaging in other health behaviours. CHBs have not yet been investigated in detail regarding smoking. Smoking might cause cognitive dissonance in smokers, if they are aware that smoking is unhealthy and simultaneously hold the general goal of staying healthy. Hence, CHBs are proposed as one strategy for smokers to resolve such cognitive dissonance. The aim of the present study was to develop a scale to measure smoking-specific CHBs among adolescents and to test whether CHBs are related to a lower readiness to stop smoking.
Design. For the main analyses, cross-sectional data were used. In order to investigate the retest-reliability follow-up data, 4 months later were included in the analysis.
Method. A newly developed scale for smoking-specific CHBs in adolescents was tested for its validity and reliability as well as its predictive value for the readiness to stop smoking in a sample of 244 smokers (15–21 years) drawn from different schools. Multilevel modelling was applied.
Results. Evidence was found for the reliability and validity of the smoking-specific CHB scale. Smoking-specific CHBs were significantly negatively related to an individual's readiness to stop smoking, even after controlling for other predictors such as self-efficacy or conscientiousness.
Conclusions. CHBs may provide one possible explanation for why adolescents fail to stop smoking.