Introduction: The study examines the effectiveness of antismoking public service announcements (PSAs) among adult smokers as a function of smoking cues and the argument strength of the PSAs. Consistent with the previous cue-reactivity studies, smoking cues are defined as one of the following visual scenes: (a) objects associated with smoking, (b) holding or handling cigarettes, and (c) actual smoking behaviors. Argument strength indicates smoker's judgments of perceived strength and persuasiveness of the arguments extracted from the PSAs.
Methods: Data were collected through a web-based experiment of a random sample of general population of smokers (n = 566 adults aged 19 years or older). Each participant was shown 4 PSAs randomly selected from a set of 60. Data were analyzed using multilevel modeling to assess the effects of smoking cues and argument strength. Effectiveness measures include perceived persuasiveness, transportation, valenced thought, negative emotion, and smoking-related thoughts.
Results: Argument strength is a significant predictor of outcome variables. Although there were no significant main effects of smoking cues on any outcome variables, smoking cues were found to interact with argument strength such that the association between argument strength and outcome variables became weaker for PSAs in the smoking cue condition compared with those in the no-cue condition.
Conclusions: The interaction between smoking cues and argument strength suggests that smoking cues in antismoking PSAs undermine a significant part of what makes PSAs effective-their arguments against smoking. In designing antismoking messages, the inclusion of smoking cues should be weighed carefully.