Introduction: This study tested efficacy of 4 types of smoking prevention messages directed toward young Chinese adults based on message framing and the target of the message. The claim that social smoking is an entrenched behavior was also tested.
Methods: This study was based on a 2 (friends vs. self) × 2 (gain vs. loss) factorial design. Respondents were directed to a Web site, where they answered questions about demographics and smoking status and then read 1 of 4 experimental messages or continued with the no-message control condition. Descriptive and injunctive norms about the extent and acceptability of smoking were also measured. Dependent variables included measures of smoking resistance efficacy, susceptibility to the harms of smoking, smoking enjoyment, severity of smoking harms, and behavioral intention to smoke.
Results: Totally, 315 participants enrolled in a large Chinese university participated in this study. Overall, gain messages were more effective for smoking prevention. Participants were more persuaded to refrain from smoking by the friend-gain-framed message rather than self-targeted messages. Loss messages were largely ineffective both for smokers and nonsmokers. Participants who read messages about effects on friends indicated more susceptibility to the harms of smoking compared with participants who read messages about effects on self. Significant effects were associated with descriptive and injunctive norms for the intention to smoke.
Conclusions: Future studies need to more fully investigate whether loss antismoking messages are effective in other contexts and with other moderators beyond those investigated in this study.