Changing the language of how we measure and report smoking status: Implications for reducing stigma, restoring dignity, and improving the precision of scientific communication | Nicotine & Tobacco Research | Oxford Academic
Accurate classification of smoking status has long been regarded as an essential prerequisite for advancing tobacco-related epidemiologic, treatment, and policy research. However, the descriptors we commonly use to classify people who smoke may inadvertently perpetuate harmful, stigmatizing beliefs and negative stereotypes. In recognizing the power of words to either perpetuate or reduce stigma, Dr. Nora Volkow—Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse—recently highlighted the role of stigma in addiction,1 and the movement encouraging the use of person-first language and eliminating the use of slang and idioms when describing addiction and the people whom it affects.2,3 In this commentary, we make an appeal for researchers and clinicians to use personfirst language (e.g., “people who smoke”) rather than commonly used labels (e.g., “smokers”) in written (e.g., in scholarly reports) and verbal communication (e.g., clinical case presentations ) to promote greater respect and convey dignity for people who smoke. We assert that the use of precise and bias-free language to describe people who smoke has the potential to reduce smoking-related stigma and may enhance the precision of scientific communication.