• Article

Social identity and support for counteracting tobacco company marketing that targets vulnerable populations

Rationale: Tobacco companies use advertising to target vulnerable populations, including youth, racial/ethnic minorities, and sexual minorities.

Objective: We sought to examine how personal identity affects support for population-specific anti-smoking advertisements that could serve as countermeasures to industry marketing practices.

Methods: In 2014-2015, we surveyed probability phone samples of adults and adolescents (n = 6,139) and an online convenience sample of adults (n = 4,137) in the United States. We experimentally varied the description of tobacco industry marketing practices (no description, general, or specific to a target group). The four prevention target groups were teens; African Americans; Latinos; and gays, lesbians, and bisexuals (GLBs.). Participants were either members or non-members of their prevention target group.

Results: Support was highest for anti-smoking advertisements targeting teens, moderate for Latinos and African Americans, and lowest for GLBs. In-group members expressed higher support than out-group members when anti-smoking advertisements targeted African Americans, Latinos, and GLBs (all p <0.05). However, when teens were the target prevention group, in-group members expressed lower support than out-group members (p <0.05). The description of industry marketing practices did not have an effect. Results were similar across the phone and online studies.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that the public strongly supports advertisements to prevent smoking among teens, but support for similar efforts among other vulnerable populations is comparatively low. Anti-smoking campaigns for vulnerable populations may benefit from a greater understanding of the role of social identity in shaping public support for such campaigns. (C) 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Baig, S. A., Pepper, J. K., Morgan, J. C., & Brewer, N. T. (2017). Social identity and support for counteracting tobacco company marketing that targets vulnerable populations. Social Science and Medicine, 182, 136-141. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.03.052