Graphic Health Warnings on Cigarette Packages: The Role of Emotions in Affecting Adolescent Smoking Consideration and Secondhand Smoke Beliefs

Richard G. Netemeyer, Scot Burton, J. Craig Andrews, and Jeremy Kees
Article Snapshot
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Key Takeaways
Being a smoker moderates (increases) the positive effect of evoked fear and guilt on personal consideration of smoking.

Being a smoker moderates (increases) the positive effect of evoked guilt on the belief that secondhand smoke is harmful to children.

As the warning on a cigarette package becomes more graphic, evoked guilt and disgust increase.

Being a smoker moderates (increases) the positive effect that level of grahicness has on evoked guilt and disgust.

Article Snapshots: Executive Summaries from the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing

The purpose of the article was to determine if the emotions of fear, disgust, and guilt evoked by varying levels of graphic health warnings on cigarette packages affect smoker and non-smoker personal consideration of smoking and the harmfulness of secondhand smoke to children.


“Results show that perceived graphicness of the visual warning positively affects guilt and disgust and that smoking status increases the positive effect of perceived graphicness for smokers. Evoked fear and guilt also interact with smoking status to strengthen the positive influence of these emotions.”

“These results suggest, that in addition to fear, appeals to evoke guilt and disgust might be effective themes in anti-smoking campaigns aimed at adolescents experimenting with smoking (e.g., for possible use in FDA’s “The Real Cost” campaign).”


Research
Most studies on graphic health warnings toward adolescents have focused on the emotion of fear to persuade adolescents not to smoke or to quit smoking. We wanted to determine if two other negative emotions (guilt and disgust) could be evoked from graphic warning levels and the degree to which being a smoker or nonsmoker moderated the effects of these emotions on personal consideration of smoking and the belief that secondhand smoke is harmful to children. By evoking guilt and disgust in combination with fear, graphic health warnings may become more effective in anti-smoking campaigns.

Method
We studied 349 adolescents (145 classified as current smokers and 204 as non-mokers) using a survey experimental design with graphicness at low, medium, and high levels. Based on these levels of graphicness, we assessed its effect on evoking three negative emotions (fear, guilt, and disgust) and the degree to which these emotions interacted with being a smoker versus a non-moker in affecting personal consideration of smoking and the belief that secondhand smoke is harmful to children.

Findings
The perceived graphic level of the warning increases the negative emotions of fear, guilt, and disgust. Furthermore, fear and guilt interact with smoking status to strengthen the positive influence of these emotions on current smokers’ consideration of smoking. Also, smoking status moderates the effects of fear and guilt by strengthening smokers’ belief that secondhand smoke is harmful to children  We also find a direct effect of perceived graphicness on the smoking consideration measures that is not fully mediated by the evoked emotions.

Implications
By evoking guilt and disgust in combination with fear, graphic health warnings may become more effective in anti-smoking campaigns geared at adolescents. Specifically, our results suggest that these emotions might be effective themes in anti-smoking campaigns aimed at adolescents experimenting with smoking (e.g., for possible use in FDA’s “The Real Cost” campaign). Similarly, extending our findings to other vulnerable populations (e.g., low literacy, low income) and other tobacco products (e.g., e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco,  hookah) would be relevant future studies.


Questions for the Classroom

  • Are there other emotions besides those noted in the research (i.e., fear, guilt, disgust) that might affect consumers when viewing the health warnings shown in article?     
  • Would the emotions evoked by the more graphic pictures differ for older  smokers who had smoked for more than 30 years compared to adolescent smokers who had smoked only occasionally for one or two years? 
  • Given that smoking is linked to 480,000 U.S. deaths per year, should tobacco companies be required to include these graphic warnings on packaging, even though they market a legal product?


Full Article
Richard G. Netemeyer, Scot Burton, J. Craig Andrews, and Jeremy Kees (2016) Graphic Health Warnings on Cigarette Packages: The Role of Emotions in Affecting Adolescent Smoking Consideration and Secondhand Smoke Beliefs. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing: Spring 2016, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 124-143.

Richard G. Netemeyer is Senior Associate Dean and Ralph E. Beeton Professor of Free Enterprise, McIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia (e-mail: rgn3p@virginia.edu).



Scot Burton is Distinguished Professor and Tyson Chair in Food and Consumer Products Retailing, Department of Marketing, Sam M. Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas (e-mail: sburton@walton.uark.edu).



J. Craig Andrews is Professor and Charles H. Kellstadt Chair in Marketing, Department of Marketing, Marquette University (e-mail: craig.andrews@marquette.edu).


Author Bio:

 
Richard G. Netemeyer, Scot Burton, J. Craig Andrews, and Jeremy Kees
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