You did this to yourself! Stigma and blame in lung cancer


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mary Jiang Bresnahan, Department of Communication, Michigan State University, 470 Communication Arts Building, East Lansing, MI 48824-1212. E-mail:


Respondents (N = 224) read 1 of 4 scenarios: a heavy smoker, a moderate smoker, an occasional smoker, or a nonsmoker diagnosed with lung cancer. Results showed that smokers with lung cancer received more blame than did nonsmokers. Nonsmokers assigned more blame to tobacco companies and cigarette advertising and made more negative attributions about lung cancer victims. Respondents high in smoking-cessation efficacy assigned more blame and negative attributions to lung cancer victims. This study suggests that lung cancer is stigmatized because of the widely held belief that it is preventable. Interventions must encourage smokers to be vigilant about their lung health, to know the symptoms of lung cancer, and to see their doctor immediately if they experience lung problems.