Nudging smokers

Intervention · Public Health

Intervention towards reducing smokers

Intervention Description

Smoking is a public health hazard, even to non-smokers. Hundreds of thousands die of secondhand smoke each year. It is therefore important that smoking occurs less in crowded areas. One such area is near doors at airports. Copenhagen airport attempted to solve this problem by prohibiting smoking in such areas, yet few smokers complied. They then tried a new method: designating specific smoking areas. There was no punishment for not smoking in this area. However, instituting an area for smoking has the advantage of causing the least cognitive strain on smokers; instead of realizing that they couldn't smoke in the door area and having to find a new area, they must simply follow a path to the designated area. People tend to choose the path of least resistance, in terms of cognitive effort. This intervention succeeded, as shown by a 49% decrease in smoking in the restricted areas.


Effective interventions start with a nuanced understanding of how decisions are made. Our mission is to help large organizations be better and do better, using behavioral science.

Learn about what we do
Notes illustration

Eager to learn about how behavioral science can help your organization?