Short and Sweet: The Persuasive Effects of Message Framing and Temporal Context in Antismoking Warning Labels

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Mollen, S. ; Engelen, S. ; Kessels, L.T.E. ; van den Putte, B. (2017)

Current warning labels on cigarette packages are generally focused on long-term losses that can be incurred if one continues smoking. This study compares the effects of these labels against warning labels that stress short-term losses of smoking as well as labels that stress short- and long-term benefits that can be obtained when one quits smoking. A 2 (message frame: gain vs. loss) × 2 (temporal context: short vs. long term) between-subjects experiment was conducted among 132 smokers, with attitude toward quitting smoking and intention to quit smoking, as well as information-seeking behavior and message recall, as the dependent variables. Findings were in line with theory regarding message framing and temporal discounting, showing enhanced effects of gain over loss frames and short-term over long-term consequences on warning labels for attitudes and intentions. In addition, an interaction between message frame and temporal context was found. Especially, gain-framed messages showed stronger effects on intentions to quit smoking than loss-framed messages when warning labels concerned short-term outcomes. Findings suggest that current warning labels, with an emphasis on long-term negative health outcomes, should be reconsidered.
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