The aim of this qualitative study is to identify the dimensions people used to assess the risk of smoking and then compare them with those used by health professionals in primary healthcare. Five discussion groups were conducted. The field work was carried out in Barcelona (Spain), from February 2005 to January 2006. Data were analyzed following a semantic-thematic categorical content analysis (ACC-ts). Results showed that people tend to employ stereotypical discourses when evaluating the risk of smoking. Similarly, they reassess the risk in the context of their life experience and incorporate new nuances to the arguments sustaining their behavior. Once this reassessment takes place, the decision to continue smoking emerges, and smokers come up with additional arguments justifying their habit (i.e., age, benefits related to costs). Professionals are aware of this process and its multidimensional nature. Nevertheless, their discourse loses this multidimensional feature when discussing the strategies they use at smoking cessation interventions. This qualitative study increases the understanding of various meanings that people attribute to their life experience. These assumptions may be useful for developing health practices that are closer to people. As a practical utility of these results, it would be interesting to apply a preliminary assessment of the different meanings that people attribute to smoking from their life context in risk communication.
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