Open Access Research article

Time perspective as a predictor of smoking status: findings from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Surveys in Scotland, France, Germany, China, and Malaysia

Genevieve Sansone1*, Geoffrey T Fong12, Peter A Hall3, Romain Guignard4, François Beck45, Ute Mons6, Martina Pötschke-Langer6, Hua-Hie Yong7, Mary E Thompson8, Maizurah Omar9 and Yuan Jiang10

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada

2 Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, MaRS Centre, South Tower, 101 College Street, Suite 800, Toronto, ON M5G 0A3, Canada

3 Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1, Canada

4 Institut National de Prévention et d’Education pour la Santé (INPES), 42 Boulevard de la Liberation, SAINT-DENIS cedex, 93 203, France

5 Cermes3 - Cesames team (Research Centre Medicine, Sciences, Health, Mental Health, Health Policy), CNRS UMR 8211, Inserm U988, University of Paris Descartes, Sorbonne Paris Cité, EHESS, Paris, France

6 Unit Cancer Prevention and WHO-Collaborating Centre for Tobacco Control, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, Heidelberg, D-69120, Germany

7 The Cancer Council Victoria, 100 Drummond St., Carlton, VIC, 3053, Australia

8 Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada

9 Universiti Sains Malaysia, USM Pulau Pinang, 11800, Malaysia

10 National Tobacco Control Office, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Nanwei Road, Xuan Wu District, Beijing, 100050, P.R. China

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:346  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-346

Published: 15 April 2013



Prior studies have demonstrated that time perspective—the propensity to consider short-versus long-term consequences of one’s actions—is a potentially important predictor of health-related behaviors, including smoking. However, most prior studies have been conducted within single high-income countries. The aim of this study was to examine whether time perspective was associated with the likelihood of being a smoker or non-smoker across five countries that vary in smoking behavior and strength of tobacco control policies.


The data were from the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Surveys in five countries with large probability samples of both smokers (N=10,341) and non-smokers (N=4,955): Scotland, France, Germany, China, and Malaysia. The surveys were conducted between 2005–2008. Survey respondents indicated their smoking status (smoker vs. non-smoker) and time perspective (future oriented vs. not future-oriented) and provided demographic information.


Across all five countries, non-smokers were significantly more likely to be future-oriented (66%) than were smokers (57%), χ2(1, N = 15,244) = 120.64, p < .001. This bivariate relationship between time perspective and smoking status held in a multivariate analysis. After controlling for country, age, sex, income, education, and ethnicity (language in France), those who were future-oriented had 36% greater odds of being a non-smoker than a smoker (95% CI: 1.22 to 1.51, p<.001).


These findings establish time perspective as an important predictor of smoking status across multiple countries and suggest the potential value of incorporating material to enhance future orientation in smoking cessation interventions.

Time perspective; Future orientation; Tobacco; Smoking; Smoking status; International