Health Belief Model



The Health Belief Model emphasizes that tobacco use is determined by an individual's perceptions regarding:

  • Personal vulnerability to illness caused by tobacco use
  • Seriousness of tobacco as a problem
  • Treatment cost and effectiveness (i.e., the benefits of taking action)
  • Barriers to quitting
  • Cues to change tobacco use behavior.


Key Constructs

Key constructs in the Health Belief Model include perceived risks and benefits with regard to tobacco use, perceived barriers and self-efficacy for quitting, and cues to action (see table below).


Definition (for Tobacco Users)

Perceived Susceptibility

Tobacco user’s perceived chances of developing smoking-related conditions (i.e., lung cancer, CVD, gum disease, infertility, etc.)

Perceived Severity

Tobacco user’s beliefs regarding seriousness of various smoking-related conditions and the consequences of these conditions

Perceived Benefits

Tobacco user’s belief in the efficacy of the advised action for smoking cessation in reducing various health risks

Perceived Barriers

Tobacco user’s opinion of the tangible and psychological costs of the advised action for quitting smoking

Cues to Action

Strategies to activate "readiness" to quit within tobacco user


Tobacco user’s confidence in their ability to terminate use of tobacco


Strategies to Use with Tobacco Users

Frame the tobacco cessation message according to an assessment of the client's:

  • Perceived susceptibility to tobacco dependency
  • Perceived severity of smoking outcomes
  • Barriers to quitting tobacco use
  • Perceived benefits of quitting

Implement cessation by:

  • Clarifying the risks of continued use of tobacco and the benefits of reducing use or quitting. Apprehensive clients facing harmful health consequences are more likely to take action to quit.
  • Helping the client identify strategies for overcoming barriers to quitting
  • Providing "cues to action" that activate readiness to change. These cues include medical symptoms, doctor’s recommendation, reminders from a health plan, and media campaign.
  • Strengthening self-efficacy via provision of training or guidance in quitting (i.e., demonstrating proper use of nicotine patch/gum, etc.)



Table adapted from:

Champion, V.L., & Skinner, C.S. (2008). The health belief model. In Glanz K, Rimer BK, Viswanath K, Eds. (4th ed). Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.pp. 45-65. (graph on p48)