Introduction: Exposure to “The Real Cost” campaign has prevented smoking initiation among its target audience (U.S. youth aged 12–17 years). This study examines reactions to “The Real Cost” advertisements among a potential secondary audience: U.S. young adults. Methods: An online convenience sample of young adult (ages 18–29 years) smokers (n=225) and susceptible nonsmokers (n=339) participated in a within-subjects experiment in 2017. Participants viewed three TV ads from “The Real Cost” campaign and reported their past exposure to, conversations about, and reactions to the ads. In 2017, analyses examined message-level and person-level predictors of perceived message effectiveness using multilevel modeling. Results: About half of smokers (47%) and susceptible nonsmokers (51%) had seen at least one of the three ads in the past 3 months. About one in four smokers (23%) and susceptible nonsmokers (24%) had at least one conversation about the ads in the past 3 months. Susceptible nonsmokers rated the ads higher on perceived message effectiveness than smokers (p<0.01), but lower on message relevance and negative affective reactions to the ads (both p<0.05). In both samples, ads that elicited higher negative affective reactions and message relevance, and lower message reactance (i.e., resistance) received higher perceived message effectiveness ratings (all p<0.05). Conclusions: “The Real Cost” ads have reached and generated conversations among a convenience sample of young adult smokers and susceptible nonsmokers. Increasing the perceived relevance and emotional reactions of campaigns may increase their impact. Future studies should examine reactions to “The Real Cost” campaign and effects on smoking behavior using nationally representative samples of young adults. Supplement information: This article is part of a supplement entitled Fifth Anniversary Retrospective of “The Real Cost,” the Food and Drug Administration's Historic Youth Smoking Prevention Media Campaign, which is sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Publication of this article was supported by the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This publication represents the views of the authors and does not represent FDA or NIH position or policy.
This article is part of a supplement entitled Fifth Anniversary Retrospective of “The Real Cost,” the Food and Drug Administration's Historic Youth Smoking Prevention Media Campaign, which is sponsored by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
We thank Sabeeh Baig and Cathy Zimmer for statistical consulting, and Jennifer Harker for assisting with the survey instrument. Research reported in this publication was supported by grant number P50CA180907 from the National Cancer Institute and FDA. Grant number T32-CA057726 from the National Cancer Institute of NIH supported MGH's time writing the paper. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill IRB approved this study (#17-0017).