Introduction: Couples in which both members smoke (dual-smoker couples) have not been the explicit target of cessation interventions. Quit rates are lower and relapse rates are higher among individuals in dual-smoker couples. A potentially effective strategy to motivate dual-smoker couples to quit is to convey messages that highlight how the positive outcomes of quitting (gain frame) or the negative outcomes of continued smoking (loss frame) affect the couple rather than the individual smoker. We explored whether dual-smoker couples' smoking behaviors (e.g., amount smoked) and desire to quit would differ as a function of message frame (gain vs. loss) or outcome focus (individual vs. couple).
Methods: Dual-smoker couples (N = 40) completed a baseline survey and were then randomized to review gain- or loss-framed messages that varied whether the outcomes influenced the individual or the couple. Main outcomes were desire to quit after reading messages and smoking behaviors at a 1-month follow-up.
Results: Couple-focused messages produced the strongest desire to quit and decreased amount of cigarettes smoked at follow-up. The latter effect was mediated by desire to quit. Loss-framed messages produced inconsistent effects on desire to quit. There were no significant interactions between outcome focus and message framing.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that messages emphasizing how smoking affects both partners can motivate cessation among dual-smoker couples. Contrary to findings showing that gain-framed messages motivate cessation targeting individual smokers, results suggest that loss-framed messages may be more persuasive than gain-framed messages when the target of the outcome involves significant others.