Adding Negative Social Cues on Tobacco Packaging May help Denormalize Smoking

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Tobacco packaging may an important tool to convey an anti-smoking messages. Today, this approach has predominantly been limited to fear‐based health appeals, but an experimental approach seems to suggest that other options may also help.

A study funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and published in the Journal of Consumer Affairs suggests that tobacco packaging designed to reminds smokers that broad societal ‘others’ disapprove of the activity can trigger feelings of self-consciousness. In turn, the researchers conclude that this reduces smoking intentions.

The researchers noted that this approach is especially effective in ‘isolated’ smokers who do not see smoking as identity-relevant or congruent with their social self.

Study design
The study involved an online experiment with a panel of 156 American adult smokers. These smokers were randomly assigned to view one of two tobacco packages. Each package included the same tagline (“This is how people look at smokers.“) but portrayed different black and white images of people either displaying neutral or disgusted expressions.

“Tobacco denormalization strategies such as workplace and social setting bans have used social pressure as a means of discouraging smoking. Our early research suggests that tobacco packaging itself may be another tool by which to exert similar pressure, especially in those smokers already sensitive to smoking stigma,” noted Jennifer Jeffrey, Assistant Professor at King’s University College at Western University who developed the study with Matthew Thomson, an Associate Professor at Ivey Business School, Western University.

Reference
Jeffrey J, Thomson M. Integrating Negative Social Cues in Tobacco Packaging: A Novel Approach to Discouraging Smokers. J. Consumer Affairs. Nov, 20, 2018; https://doi.org/10.1111/joca.12232 [Article]


Last Editorial Review: November 20, 2018

Featured Image: Smoking kills. Cigarette pack with text cancer and death. Courtesy: 2018 © Fotolia. Used with permission.

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