There is no time like the present: Communicating consequences of smoking on cigarette packages.

Published on February 20 2017 – Cigarette packages contain warning labels (e.g., ‘smokers die younger’) that aim to prevent people from smoking and encourage smokers to quit. However, there is an ongoing debate about whether the current warnings are effective. In this study, Saar Mollen and Bas van den Putte examine the effects of textual warning labels that emphasize short-term (e.g., ‘smoking costs a lot of money’) and long-term effects (e.g., ‘smoking causes cancer’).

Messages communicated via cigarette packages, mostly emphasize the negative consequences of smoking that will in general only manifest after years of smoking. In the current study, conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Amsterdam and Maastricht University, we study whether it is more effective to communicate positive short-term consequences of quitting smoking instead.

Participants in the current study (young adult smokers), have been exposed to one of four different cigarette packages: (1) positive short-term consequences of quitting, (2) positive long-term consequences of quitting, (3) negative short-term consequences of smoking, (4) negative long-term consequences of smoking. The results show that positive (vs. negative) consequences and short-term (vs. long-term) consequences result in a more positive attitude toward quitting. With regard to the intention to quit smoking it is found that short term positive consequences of quitting smoking (e.g., if you quit smoking, this will save you a lot of money) are most persuasive. Our research shows that it is potentially more effective to communicate positive short-term outcomes of quitting smoking on cigarette packages.

Read more? Mollen, S., Engelen, S., Kessels, L. T. E., & Van den Putte, B. (2017). Short and Sweet: The Persuasive Effects of Message Framing and Temporal Context in Antismoking Warning Labels. Journal of Health Communication, 22(1), 20-28

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