Anti-smoking public service announcements (PSAs) often include smoking-related cues; however, visual drug cues can trigger acute cravings that may impede cognitive processing of the anti-smoking message. This experiment evaluated effects of smoking cues in PSAs on smoking urges, immediate smoking behavior, and persuasion measures in daily smokers.
Three-hundred eighteen non-treatment seeking smokers completed a single laboratory session during which they viewed sets of PSAs differentiated by presence of smoking cues (central to the PSA’s argument, peripheral, or no cues) and argument strength (high versus low). After viewing the PSAs, participants completed self-report measures of smoking urges, attitudes toward quitting, self-efficacy, and intentions to quit smoking. Smoking behavior was recorded during a one-hour ad-libitum smoking period immediately following PSA viewing and assessment.
There was a significant positive effect of argument strength on attitudes toward quitting smoking (p = 0.012). There were no main effects of smoking cues or smoking cue by argument strength interactions on any of the outcome measures.
Visual smoking cues in PSAs do not increase urges to smoke, nor is there evidence that the inclusion of such cues impede the recall or persuasive effects of anti-smoking arguments.