Online Program

Smoker and abstainer identities: Effects on smoking cessation self-efficacy and intentions

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dina Shapiro, MPH, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Emily Brennan, PhD, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Ani Momjian, BA, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Joseph N. Cappella, PhD, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Background. Cigarette smoking is a visible act which leads to the creation and reinforcement of an identity as a smoker. Research and theory suggest that smoking cessation involves giving up this identity and redefining the self as an abstainer. This study explored the mediating role of these identities on smoking cessation self-efficacy and intentions after exposure to anti-smoking messages. Methods. A sample of 4,715 smokers completed measures of their identification with smoker and abstainer identities prior to exposure to an anti-smoking message. After exposure, smoking cessation self-efficacy and intentions were measured. Results. The results show consistent support for the role of identity as a mediating variable in individual differences in cessation intentions and self-efficacy. Those strongly identified as an abstainer showed higher cessation intentions and self-efficacy; those strongly identified as a smoker showed lower cessation intentions and self-efficacy. Surprisingly however, cessation intentions and self-efficacy were highest for those who held both of these contrasting identities simultaneously. These effects persisted even when controlling for beliefs, risk perceptions, demographics, and smoking-related characteristics. This finding highlights that multiple views of the self are possible, and that contrasting views of the self can have motivational consequences above and beyond the main effects of individual identities. Conclusions. This study has implications for anti-smoking interventions, suggesting that efforts to increase smokers' identification as an abstainer are important. These findings further suggest that this approach will be effective without the need to use more reactance prone approaches which may be necessary to reduce individuals' identification as smokers.

Learning Areas:

Communication and informatics
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the role of smoker and abstainer identities in mediating the effects of anti-smoking interventions on smoking cessation intentions and self-efficacy

Keyword(s): Smoking Cessation, Health Education Strategies

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral candidate focusing on health communication. I am also a research fellow at one of NCI's Centers of Excellence in Cancer Communication Research. I have spend three years working on interventions focused on smoking cessation.
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.