Psychological distress and responses to comparative risk messages about electronic and combusted cigarettes

Bo Yang, Claire Adams Spears, Lucy Popova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: People with mental illness suffer disproportionately high health burdens of smoking. Communicating to these smokers that electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a less harmful alternative to combusted cigarettes might help them reduce their health risks by encouraging complete switching to e-cigarettes. However, such messages might also cause unintended consequences (e.g., dual use of both combusted and e-cigarettes). Our study examined how smokers with vs. without serious psychological distress (SPD) responded to messages communicating reduced harm of e-cigarettes in relation to cigarettes. Method: In an online experiment, 1400 U.S. adult smokers with and without SPD viewed 1 of 6 messages about reduced harm of e-cigarettes compared to cigarettes or a control message. Then participants reported e-cigarette- and cigarette-related beliefs, and behavioral intentions. Results: Message type (comparative risk messages vs. control) did not interact with SPD status to produce differential impacts on smokers with and without SPD. Regardless of being exposed to a comparative risk message or a control message, smokers with SPD reported greater perceived absolute risk of e-cigarettes and cigarettes, greater support for tobacco control, greater intentions to switch to e-cigarettes completely and seek help with quitting, and were less likely to report e-cigarettes were less harmful than cigarettes compared to smokers without SPD. Discussion: Smokers with SPD had greater intentions to switch to e-cigarettes completely and seek help quitting compared to smokers without SPD, which indicates that smokers with SPD may be optimistic about e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-148
Number of pages8
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Volume91
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Cigarettes
  • Comparative risk messages
  • E-cigarettes
  • Mental health
  • Psychological distress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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