Smokers who take multivitamins, a healthy choice that they believe reduces the risk of cancer, think it compensates for their unhealthy behaviour and end up smoking more cigarettes, according to a new study.
This is an example of what psychologists call the licensing effect, which occurs when people make a virtuous choice that permits them to make a poor choice later on.
Health-conscious smokers who take vitamins may thus trigger fundamental but false beliefs that they are invulnerable to the major health hazards associated with smoking, which will lead them to smoke more and increase their overall health risk, the research said.
"Smokers who take dietary supplements can fool themselves into thinking they are protected against cancer and other diseases," said lead author Wen-Bin Chiou.
"Reminding health conscious smokers that multivitamins don't prevent cancer may help them control their smoking or even encourage them to stop," he added.
The study was recently published recently in the journal Addiction.