Antismoking Advertisements and Price Promotions and Their Association With the Urge to Smoke and Purchases in a Virtual Convenience Store: Randomized Experiment

J Med Internet Res. 2019 Oct 23;21(10):e14143. doi: 10.2196/14143.


Background: Point of sale (POS) advertising is associated with smoking initiation, current smoking, and relapse among former smokers. Price promotion bans and antismoking advertisements (ads) are 2 possible interventions for combating POS advertising.

Objective: The purpose of this analysis was to determine the influence of antismoking ads and promotions on urges to smoke and tobacco purchases.

Methods: This analysis examined exposure to graphic (graphic images depicting physical consequences of tobacco use) and supportive (pictures of and supportive messages from former smokers) antismoking ads and promotions in a virtual convenience store as predictors of urge to smoke and buying tobacco products among 1200 current cigarette smokers and 800 recent quitters recruited via a Web-based panel (analytical n=1970). We constructed linear regression models for urge to smoke and logistic regression models for the odds of purchasing tobacco products, stratified by smoking status.

Results: The only significant finding was a significant negative relationship between exposure to supportive antismoking ads and urge to smoke among current smokers (beta coefficient=-5.04, 95% CI -9.85 to -0.22; P=.04). There was no significant relationship between graphic antismoking ads and urge to smoke among current smokers (coefficient=-3.77, 95% CI -8.56 to 1.02; P=.12). Neither relationship was significant for recent quitters (graphic: coefficient=-3.42, 95% CI -8.65 to 1.81; P=.15 or supportive: coefficient=-3.82, 95% CI -8.99 to 1.36; P=.20). There were no significant differences in urge to smoke by exposure to promotions for current smokers (coefficient=-1.06, 95% CI -4.53 to 2.41; P=.55) or recent quitters (coefficient=1.76, 95% CI -2.07 to 5.59; P=.37). There were also no differences in tobacco purchases by exposure to graphic (current smokers: coefficient=0.93, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.29; P=.66 and recent quitters: coefficient=0.73, 95% CI 0.44 to 1.19; P=.20) or supportive (current smokers: coefficient=1.05, 95% CI 0.75 to 1.46; P=.78 and recent quitters: coefficient=0.73, 95% CI 0.45 to 1.18; P=.20) antismoking ads or price promotions (current smokers: coefficient=1.09, 95% CI 0.86 to 1.38; P=.49 and recent quitters: coefficient=0.90, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.31; P=.60).

Conclusions: The results of this analysis support future research on the ability of supportive antismoking ads to reduce urges to smoke among current cigarette smokers. Research on urges to smoke has important tobacco control implications, given the relationship between urge to smoke and smoking cigarettes, time to next smoke, and amount smoked.

Keywords: advertisement; cigarette smoking; commerce; consumer behavior; craving; tobacco products.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advertising / economics*
  • Advertising / methods*
  • Consumer Behavior / economics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Virtual Reality