Date of Award

August 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Media Studies

First Advisor

Xiaoxia Cao

Committee Members

Hayeon Song, Richard Popp


Anti-Smoking Campaign, Cessation Intention, Negative Emotions, Self-Efficacy, Socioeconomic Status, Stigma


Over the past decade, an increasing number of strong tobacco control legislations (e.g., high cigarette taxes and strict ban on smoking in public places) have passed through Congress to reduce the size of smoking population in the United States. As a part of such national efforts, anti-smoking campaigns have been introduced to curb health problems associated with smoking. Recent anti-smoking campaigns often employ de-normalization strategies that portray smoker(s) as deviant and stigmatized minorit(ies) and smoking as an abnormal and non-mainstream activity in order to better stimulate cessation. As a result of implementing such stigmatization tactics, prevalence of smoking at a broad population level has constantly declined in recent years. However, such stigmatizing campaign strategies have been less successful in motivating cessation among smokers in lower levels of socioeconomic status (SES) than among those in higher levels of SES. Observation of the gap in cessation rates raises the questions of how and why the effect of stigmatizing campaigns varies depending upon smokers' SES.

To answer these questions, an experiment was conducted to test a moderated mediation model on the effect of the stigmatizing anti-smoking campaigns on cessation intentions. Results showed that the stigmatizing (vs. the control) campaign messages led the socioeconomically disadvantaged smokers (i.e., low-income smokers) to experience the lower levels of shame, which was translated into the less cessation intentions. Such unintended consequence of the decreased shame on inhibiting the willingness to quit occurred among the disadvantaged smokers who also showed the lower levels of self-efficacy in successful cessation of smoking. The overall findings of this thesis suggest that anti-smoking campaigns promoting smoker-related stigma might have produced the boomerang effect of decreasing the cessation intentions among the lower income smokers with less self-efficacy who account for the majority of smoking population in recent years. More importantly, the findings indicate that public health campaigns that stigmatize smokers and smoking behavior need to be reconsidered; otherwise smokers with lower annual income and self-efficacy might be left at a greater risk of harms associated with smoking and even the disparity in cessation rates may continue growing. For these reasons, the results of this thesis call for formative research to help develop safer anti-smoking campaign to better prompt smokers across various SES to quit smoking.