Psychophysiological responses to hookah tobacco public education messages among young adults

Health Psychol. 2021 Sep;40(9):569-577. doi: 10.1037/hea0001092.


Objective: Hookah tobacco use among young adults may be driven by misperceptions of health harms and addictiveness, appealing flavors, and social use. This study examined the effects of hookah prevention messages on participants' cognitive and emotional processing in a lab setting.

Method: One hundred twenty participants (61 susceptible never-users, 59 current users) were exposed to messages representing six categories: health risks only, health risks of social use, health risks of flavors, addiction risks only, addiction risks of social use, and addiction risks of flavors. Guided by the Limited Capacity Model of Motivated Mediated Message Processing, participants' psychophysiological responses (heart rate, skin conductance, facial action coding) were recorded while participants viewed the messages. Recognition memory and counterarguing were measured postexposure.

Results: The combination of heart rate, skin conductance, both positive and negative facial action coding, and recognition memory indicated that social themed messages were more defensively processed than the other message types. Addiction-social messages, in particular, were least likely to be encoded. Further, defensive processing indicated by the psychophysiological and recognition data did not vary according to user status. Counterarguing was higher for users than for never-users across all message themes and risks.

Discussion: Messages about health risks and addiction, whether or not they included information on flavors, evoked relatively similar responses. But social themed messages stand out as potentially problematic, especially addiction-social messages. Using psychophysiological and self-report measures extend opportunities to identify optimal hookah tobacco public education message features. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Addictive*
  • Humans
  • Tobacco Use
  • Tobacco, Waterpipe*
  • Young Adult