Changing attitudes toward smoking and smoking susceptibility through peer crowd targeting: more evidence from a controlled study

Health Commun. 2015;30(5):521-4. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2014.902008. Epub 2014 Sep 10.


Peer crowd identification consistently predicts an adolescent's smoking behavior. As such, several interventions have targeted adolescents and young adults based on their identification with a specific crowd (e.g., Hipsters). This study uses a controlled experimental design to isolate and test the effect of peer crowd targeting in an antismoking ad on antismoking attitudes and smoking susceptibility. Two hundred and thirty-nine adolescents, age 13-15 years, completed a baseline survey and then viewed an antismoking ad targeting one of eight crowds; 1 week later they completed a posttest. Participants were assessed on antismoking attitudes and smoking susceptibility. Adolescents who strongly identified with the crowd targeted by the ad reported stronger antismoking attitudes and lower levels of smoking susceptibility. Those who disidentified with the crowd targeted in the ad exhibited not statistically significant increases in smoking susceptibility and weaker antismoking attitudes at posttest. These findings indicate that targeting youths based on their peer crowd is a useful strategy for antismoking interventions. Additional research should further examine whether youths who disidentify with the targeted crowd in an ad exhibit reactance against the message.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Peer Group*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Social Identification*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires