A Cross-Sectional Investigation of Positive and Negative Smoker Stereotypes and Evaluations of Cigarette Warnings

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Abstract

Objective: Although graphic cigarette warnings have important benefits that may aid in motivating smoking quit attempts and discouraging smoking initiation, 1 possible negative consequence might be psychological reactance to graphic warnings. Reactance to warnings might be shaped by stereotypical views of smokers. This research examined the associations of positive and negative smoker stereotypes with perceptions of the educational value of warnings as well as affective and motivational responses to them. Method: Using a cross-sectional design, young adult smokers and nonsmokers (N = 396) completed an online questionnaire assessing positive and negative smoker stereotypes and then evaluated a series of graphic-plus-text and text-only cigarette warnings on perceived new knowledge gained from the warning, understandability of the warning, worry about the consequences of smoking elicited by the warning, and discouragement from smoking elicited by the warning. Results: Negative smoker stereotypes were associated with all warning perceptions—more negative stereotypes were associated with higher levels of perceived new knowledge, perceived understandability, worry, and discouragement from smoking. Positive smoker stereotypes were only associated with more perceived new knowledge. Neither smoking status nor warning type moderated the relationships between smoking stereotypes and warning evaluations. Conclusions: Focusing on enhancing negative smoker portrayals, rather than reducing positive portrayals, may be more effective for antismoking campaigns.

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