263784 “It can't be as bad as smoking”: Perceptions of smokeless tobacco and responses to anti-smokeless messages

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lyudmila Popova, PhD , Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Ganna Kostygina, PhD , Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Nicolas M. Sheon, PhD , Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Pamela Ling, MD, MPH , Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
Background: As major cigarette companies have entered the smokeless market, promotion and use of smokeless tobacco is growing. However, little is known about smokers' perceptions of new smokeless products and their receptivity to messages that discourage smokeless tobacco use. Methods: Seventy-five current and former smokers from across the U.S. participated in eight online focus groups in 2011 to discuss their perceptions of smokeless tobacco and to evaluate anti-smokeless message concepts. Results: Although some participants believed that smokeless tobacco was healthier than smoking, most thought smokeless was as hazardous or more hazardous than smoking. Smokers who tried but rejected smokeless reported that the taste was neither satisfying nor appealing. Perceived positive aspects of smokeless mirrored advertising claims: that it can be used anywhere, is less harmful and cleaner than cigarettes. Anti-smokeless messages featuring female spokespeople were less believable as smokeless tobacco use was viewed as a male behavior. Messages emphasizing negative health effects of smokeless use were generally well-received. Some participants believed that visceral negative imagery would increase ad effectiveness, but others labeled this “scare tactics.” Participants pointed out that emphasizing the unpleasant sensory qualities of smokeless could unintentionally encourage continued smoking, and comparing nicotine amounts in smokeless products and cigarettes might trigger interest in low-nicotine smokeless products. Conclusions: Smokers' past experience with and attitudes towards smokeless tobacco should be heeded when developing effective anti-smokeless messages so that anti-smokeless messages do not reinforce smoking.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Describe smokers’ past experience, knowledge, and perceptions of novel smokeless tobacco products. Discuss smokers’ reactions to messages discouraging the uptake and use of smokeless tobacco products.

Keywords: Tobacco Control, Marketing

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a postdoctoral fellow at the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, and my research interests lie in smokeless tobacco use, its relationship to tobacco cessation, and marketing of smokeless tobacco. In addition, I have a PhD in Communication and extensive training and experience in evaluation and development of public communication campaigns.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.