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College Students’ Responses to Antismoking Messages: Denial, Defiance, and Other Boomerang Effects



    1. Joyce M. Wolburg is the associate dean for Graduate Studies and Research, associate professor in the Department of Advertising and PR, J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI (
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Despite the success of antismoking campaigns that aim to prevent young teens from smoking, this qualitative study provides strong evidence that different initiatives are needed for college students, particularly those who already smoke. When asked for responses to current antismoking messages, nonsmokers generally championed the cause; however, smokers often responded with anger, defiance, denial, and other negative responses. Consumers who respond in this manner are not well served by existing strategies, and money used for such campaigns could be better spent. New strategies are offered in hopes that antismoking campaigns can communicate more effectively with one high-risk group—college student smokers.

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