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Dissuading at-risk youth from smoking via mass media

Institution: University of California, Irvine
Investigator(s): Cornelia Pechmann, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2000 (Cycle 9) Grant #: 9RT-0209H Award: $610,340
Subject Area: Tobacco-Use Prevention and Cessation
Award Type: Research Project Awards
Abstracts

Initial Award Abstract
The money that is available for mass media approaches to tobacco control and, especially, tobacco use prevention is unprecedented. The American Legacy Foundation will be funding a $300 million dollar annual antismoking ad campaign. California has spent approximately $150 million dollars over the last ten years, or $15 million a year ($.50 per CA resident per year). Over a dozen additional US states already fund, or have plans to fund, mass media ads. A primary goal is to dissuade minors from smoking since 80% or more of smokers begin in their adolescent years. Unfortunately, advertising campaigns to date, while relatively successful at lowering adult smoking prevalences, have had less success with youths. In California and Massachusetts, where the most money has been spent on antismoking ads, adolescent smoking prevalences have remained relatively stable. While elsewhere adolescent smoking prevalences increased in the 1990s, allowing California and Massachusetts to report success for at least holding the line, the results were expected to be much better. The goals of the proposed research are to attain knowledge that can lead to significant improvements in the antismoking appeals communicated through mass media today, and then disseminate that knowledge to major tobacco control groups via on-site presentations, a website, etc. Specifically, we propose to conduct theory-based, experimental research to determine the causal impact of approximately 14 different types of antismoking communications and identify those that are most likely to strengthen adolescents’ antismoking normative beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions. Two of the most important decisions in advertising are what to say and how to say it. Hence, we would study 14 types of communications that represent different message content (e.g., long term health vs. cosmetics vs. second hand smoke) and/or different executional styles (e.g., youthful vs. adult spokespeople). Currently, a vast array of approaches are being used because no one is certain what works. For instance, will adolescents be dissuaded from smoking by seeing second hand smoke ads? Would it help if the victims shown suffering from the second hand smoke are young like them? Answering these questions is all the more important because most advertising experts recommend that just a few consistent messages and executional styles be utilized throughout a multiyear, multiple ad campaign. It is remarkably difficult to convey even a single message to an entire target audience in a cost effective and efficient manner. Our proposed research would take 3 years, and involve 4,425 adolescents from 21 schools. We would test about 200 antismoking ads and 200 antismoking scenes from movies and TV shows (the ads are available from a clearinghouse; the scenes from the American Lung Association). We would include antismoking scenes from entertainment media to see if the same approaches work regardless of the medium; if they do, it should lend more credibility to the findings. Also, TV networks and particularly film studios have been heavily criticized for glamorizing smoking so it would be informative to see what they have come up with in the way of countertobacco scenes and also learn if what they are doing is effective, thus providing effective ideas for new advertising. The proposed research would involve several stages, including obtaining copies of the newer antismoking ads and scenes, examining these materials to find common message and executional themes, asking adolescents what they think of these materials and experimentally assessing the impact of each type of ad and scene on smoking-related beliefs, attitudes and behavioral intentions. A complex but important aspect of our research is to test well defined categories of communication (message-execution combinations) rather than just individual ads or scenes. We would first identify common categories and then find ads and scenes that, according to both adults and adolescents, fit into each category. An understanding of what general types of messages and executions work should provide officials with sound guidelines for developing their own localized campaigns. Also, we would hope to be able to recommend specific sets of ads that appear to be effective. We would take measures to ensure that our guidelines are suitable for reaching youths who are most at risk for taking up smoking.
Publications

Research on antismoking advertising messages for youth.
Periodical: American Public Health Association Index Medicus:
Authors: Pechmann C ABS
Yr: 2003 Vol: Nbr: Abs: 59362 Pg:

TV shows that model adolescent drug use or abuse: effects on nomrative beliefs and drug use intentions.
Periodical: AMerican Marketing Association Index Medicus:
Authors: Pechmann C ABS
Yr: 2004 Vol: Nbr: Abs: Pg: