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Talking Tobacco

Interpersonal, Organizational, and Mediated Messages


Edited By Stuart L. Esrock, Kandi L. Walker and Joy L. Hart

Despite the widely recognized toll of tobacco and increasing action to curb tobacco use (e.g., increased excise taxes, smoking bans), smoking continues. Numerous messages about tobacco, smoking, and health circulate throughout society, but in spite of the prevalence of such messages and the importance of how they are constructed and interpreted, too little communication research has been dedicated to understanding and assessing tobacco-related messages. Talking Tobacco addresses the shortcoming. Featuring the work of top communication scholars, the volume advances theoretical knowledge, reviews state-of-the-art research, and shares new findings and insights on a variety of tobacco-related areas ranging from tobacco control efforts to corporate representations.
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2 Social Identity and Antismoking Campaigns: How Who Teenagers Are Affects What They Do and What We Can Do About It Meghan Bridgid Moran and Steve Sussman


Although rates of adolescent cigarette use have been declining, the problem has not yet been solved: Over one-fifth of twelfth graders have reported smoking in the past 30 days (Johnston, O’Malley, Bachman, & Schulenberg, 2008). Because over 80% of current smokers tried their first cigarette before the age of 18 (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, 2006), adolescence is a crucial time period on which to focus preventive efforts.

Traditionally, the majority of antismoking public service announcements and mass media campaigns targeting teenagers have focused on the negative health aspects of smoking or teaching teens refusal skills (Farrelly, Niederdeppe, & Yarsevich, 2003). For example, “Stages,” a 2010 ad sponsored by the California Department of Public Health, illustrates this tactic. This ad features a 13-year-old girl playing with her mother’s make-up and jewelry, while the voice of a woman describes how she started smoking because she “wanted to look cool” and how she was manipulated by tobacco companies. At the end of the ad, we see that the voice belongs to a woman who has a tracheotomy, presumably from a tobacco-related illness (California Department of Public Health, 2010). Another ad likens cigarettes to black widow spiders, stating that cigarettes “take a life every 6.5 seconds” (California Department of Public Health, 2008). Ads using tactics similar to these are commonplace: Cohen, Shumate, and Gold (2007) found that the ← 11 | 12 → majority of antismoking ads focus on changing viewers’ attitudes about smoking, with one-third focusing on one or more severe...

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