New Research on Smokers’ Behaviors: Two Studies Led by PRC Researcher Andrew Strasser

Andrew Strasser

PRC Researcher Andrew Strasser, PhD, recently published two studies about the behaviors of smokers which show that low-nicotine cigarettes may not significantly change smokers’ habits and that smokers tend to ignore warning label boxes in tobacco advertisements.

In a randomized clinical trial where some smokers were given RNC (reduced nicotine content) cigarettes, those smokers used more cigarettes and had a higher smoke exposure on a daily basis.  The findings in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention suggest that RNC use does not necessarily reduce smoking behaviors or biomarkers, althought the lowest RNC level tested may reduce harm exposure.

A study utilizing eye-tracking technology showed that the majority of smokers do not look at the warning label box found in tobacco advertisements, nullifying the value of warning boxes for informing smokers about tobacco risk. When risk information was included in the body of the advertisement, smokers were more likely to look at and retain information about smoking risk. The findings in Drug and Alcohol Dependence support reevaluation of how risk warnings are presented.

“The Tobacco Control Act allows the FDA to regulate tobacco product marketing and advertising so that people are not mislead about harm; and, the FDA can also set standards on cigarette constituent levels, including nicotine, if scientific evidence supports it will benefit public health,” said Strasser. “While these studies are scientifically quite different, their results may collectively inform future policy and law by regulating the ways RNCs can be marketed, as well as identifying optimal nicotine levels in cigarettes to reduce exposure to the dangerous substances they contain.”  The researchers suggest these results could support regulation for how tobacco products are marketed.






Graphic Warning Labels on Cigarette Packs More Effective than Text: UPenn PRC Researcher Andrew Strasser

Andrew StrasserIn PLOS ONE, Andrew Strasser, PhD, Co-Investigator on the UPenn PRC Skin Cancer Communication project, Daniel Romer, Ph.D, research director at the Annenberg Public Policy Center, and fellow researchers reported on the first naturalistic clinical trial which shows that graphic warning labels are more effective than text-only warnings in encouraging smokers to consider quitting and in educating them about smoking’s risks.

Dr. Strasser’s tobacco regulatory research program examines the impact of advertising, marketing and labeling on risk perceptions and tobacco product use,  He has been project leader on 9 NIH/FDA funded projects and is currently an Associate Editor of Nicotine and Tobacco Research

How Do Sugar-Sweetened Beverage-Related Public Service Advertisements Influence Parents?

UPenn PRC’s Amy Jordan PhD, Amy Bleakley, PhD, MPH, Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, and Andrew Strasser, PhD, using a novel experimental approach, identifying the effectiveness of distinct persuasive strategies used in audiovisual (television-format) public service advertisements (PSAs) designed to encourage parents to reduce their children’s sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption. Evaluation of existing SSB-related PSAs is vitally important because it can provide insight into which persuasive appeals are most effective for audiences, particularly those most at risk for overweight and obesity
Their findings suggest that anti-SSB campaigns targeting parents should include strong arguments for sugar-sweetened beverage reduction, invoke feelings of empowerment and hope, and be clearly directed at distinct parent audiences. At the same time the authors recognize that while individual actions may be helpful, the obesogenic environment that surrounds children may subvert even the most involved and well-intentioned parents. Appeals to personal parenting responsibility should be made in concert with efforts to create healthier structural, nutritional, and preventative environments.

Read the article here.

Jordan A, Bleakley A, Hennessy M, Vaala S, Glanz K, Strasser AA. Sugar-Sweetened Beverage-Related Public Service Advertisements and Their Influence on Parents. American Behavioral Scientist. 2015;59(14):1847-1865.




Do appeals in Advertisements Influence Adolescents’ Consumption of Sweetened Beverages?

A new study at Penn has been published in the Journal of Health Communication. PRC researchers Amy Bleakley, Amy Jordan, Karen Glanz, and Andrew Strasser, were the first to test the effect of persuasive strategies used in public service ad campaigns aimed at sugar-sweetened beverages, which include non-diet soda, sports and energy drinks, sweetened teas and fruit drinks.

The researchers found that public service advertisements (PSAs) appealing to fear – and warning of the health consequences of too much sugar, such as obesity, diabetes, amputations, cancer, and heart disease – had the greatest effect on teens’ intention to cut back on sugary drinks. The study also examined ads that appealed to humor and to nurturance (protective, parental instincts).

The fear-based ads worked directly to influence the adolescents’ intentions, as well as indirectly by affecting the perceived strength of the message. All three kinds of emotional appeals – fear, humor, and nurturance – affected other emotions and cognitions as well, but not all of those were shown to be related to teens’ intention to cut back on sugary drinks.

Read the study here

Bleakley A, Jordan A, Hennessy M, Glanz K, Strasser A and Vaala S. Do Emotional Appeals in Public Service Advertisements Influence Adolescents’ Intention to Reduce Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages? Journal of Health Comm, Jun 2015, online, 938-948.