HealthDay News — Compared with nonsmokers, smokers believe the mild and severe adverse consequences of smoking will take a longer time to develop, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology.

Luca Pancani, PhD, from the Università degli Studi di Milano in Italy, and Patrice Rusconi, PhD, from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, examined the risk perception of young smokers vs nonsmokers using a time-estimation task. Participants were asked to estimate the onset time of smoking-related conditions in an average young smoker.

The researchers found that, compared with nonsmokers, smokers postponed the onset of both mild and severe smoking-related conditions. 

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For both smokers and nonsmokers, the onset time estimates for mild conditions were associated with self-perceptions of risk and fear level of developing smoking-related conditions.

“The adverse consequences of smoking are well documented, but what we have found is that smokers perceive such hazards to be further in the future compared to those who don’t smoke,” Rusconi said in a statement. “This distorted perception is incredibly dangerous for those who do smoke, and may lead people to delay quitting smoking or screening for smoking-related conditions, increasing their risk of developing a serious illness.”

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Pancani L, Rusconi P. The onset time delaying effect: smokers vs non-smokers place the adverse consequences of smoking further in the future [published online December 13, 2017]. J Cogn Psych. doi: 10.1080/20445911.2017.1415346