Friends Moderate the Effects of Pro-Smoking Media on College Students' Intentions to Smoke

Published in: Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, v. 27, no. 1, Mar. 2013, p. 256-261

Posted on RAND.org on March 01, 2013

by Claude Messan Setodji, Steven Martino, Deborah M. Scharf, William Shadel

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Exposure to prosmoking media (e.g., smoking in movies, advertising in magazines) contributes to smoking in young people. However, the extent to which the impact of exposure depends on the social context in which those exposures occur has not been investigated. This study used ecological momentary assessment to examine the moderating role of social context in the relationship between college students' exposure to prosmoking media and their smoking refusal self-efficacy and intention to smoke. College students (n = 134) carried handheld computers for 21 days, recording their exposure to all forms of prosmoking media during the assessment period. They also responded to three investigator-initiated control prompts (programmed to occur randomly) each day of the assessment. After each exposure to prosmoking media and after each control prompt, participants answered questions about smoking refusal self-efficacy and their intentions to smoke; they also indicated whether they were with friends, with family, with a romantic partner, or alone (i.e., their social context). When participants were with friends, prosmoking media exposures were associated with stronger smoking intentions and lower smoking refusal self-efficacy; these associations were not present when participants were alone. Being with family members or with a romantic partner did not moderate the impact of prosmoking media exposure on either dependent variable. These results suggest a new role for peers in the development of youth smoking.

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