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Already-anxious teens reject negative antismoking ads

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hen confronted with an anti-smoking video ad that describes how cigarettes lead to disease, death, or harm to others, already-anxious teens and young adults tend to reject the message or avoid considering it altogether, according to a new University of Georgia study published in the journal Health Communication. “Health messages usually include a threat meant to instill fear,” said study coauthor Jennifer Monahan, a professor of speech communication at UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. But “our study found that this is not a good strategy for reaching highly anxious people, who often are more likely to smoke in the first place.” Lead author and PhD candidate Christin Bates Huggins, noted that conveyors of these health messages have not sufficiently considered how such populations perceive them. Huggins worked with data, gathered by UGA’s Southern Center for Communication, Health, and Poverty under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on 200 UGA college students aged 18 to 31. Participants completed personality questionnaires and then watched three video ads produced by different anti-smoking organizations. Researchers found a strong correlation between those scoring high in anxiety and those who avoided listening to or considering messages that evoked fear or sadness. Essentially, they rejected the message that smoking is harmful. Not only did high-anxiety students avoid negative anti-smoking messages, they also rejected an ad about the dangers of secondhand smoke, saying they considered the information biased and untrustworthy. Huggins explained that such “maladaptive responses” were common among highly anxious smokers who reacted to ads mostly with their feelings. Contact Jennifer Monahan by email at: jmonahan@uga.edu; or Christin Bates Huggins at: cebates@uga.edu For more information about UGA’s Southern Center for Communication, Health, and Poverty, see: southerncenter. uga.edu/ — Kathleen Raven Spring 2012

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ugaresearch Spring 2012  

University of Georgia research magazine

ugaresearch Spring 2012  

University of Georgia research magazine