Quantifying the Persistence of Pro-Smoking Media Effects on College Students' Smoking Risk

Published in: Journal of Adolescent Health, v. 54, no. 4, Apr. 2014, p. 474-480

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2013

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

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Research Question

  1. How persistent is the effect of pro-smoking media messages on college-aged students?

PURPOSE: To quantify the persistence of pro-smoking media exposure effects on college students' intentions to smoke and smoking refusal self-efficacy. METHOD: A total of 134 college students (ages 18–24 years) were enrolled in an ecological momentary assessment study in which they carried handheld data collection devices for 3 weeks and reported their exposures to pro-smoking media as they occurred in the real world. Smoking intentions and smoking refusal self-efficacy were assessed after each exposure to pro-smoking media and at random prompts during each day of the 3-week assessment period. A generalized additive model was used to determine how long the effect of an exposure to pro-smoking media persisted. RESULTS: The effect of pro-smoking media exposures persisted for 7 days. After exposure, smoking intentions immediately increased (.56; 95% confidence interval [CI]: [.26, .87]) and then steadily decreased (−.12; 95% CI: [−.19, −.05]) each day for 7 days, while smoking refusal self-efficacy immediately decreased (−.42; 95% CI: [−.75, −.10]) and then steadily increased (.09; 95% CI: [.02, .16]) each day for 7 days. Daily changes occurring after 7 days were not statistically significant, suggesting that smoking intentions and refusal self-efficacy had stabilized and were no longer affected by pro-smoking media exposure. CONCLUSIONS: Exposures to pro-smoking media may have strong implications for emerging young adults smoking risk as the impact of an individual exposure appears to persist for at least a week.

Key Findings

  • After exposure to a single pro-smoking media message, smoking intentions immediately increased by an average of 22 percent.
  • Although smoking intentions decreased with each passing day, they remained elevated for a full seven days.

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