The Effects of Repeated Exposure to Graphic Fear Appeals on Cigarette Packages: A Field Experiment

A. Dijkstra, C. Bos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Experimental studies on the effects of graphic fear appeals on cigarette packages typically expose smokers in a single session to a fear appeal, although in practice the exposure is always repeated. The present study applied an improved study design with repeated exposure to fear appeals on cigarette packages. In this field-experiment, 118 smokers were assigned to 1 of 2 conditions with either graphic fear appeals or textual warnings on their cigarette packages. During 3 weeks, fear and disgust were assessed 6 times. The intention to quit smoking after 3 weeks and quitting activity during the 3 weeks were the dependent measures. The effects of 3 pretest individual difference moderators were tested: disengagement beliefs, number of cigarettes smoked a day, and readiness to quit. Three weeks of exposure to the graphic fear appeals led to a stronger intention to quit, but only when smokers scored low on disengagement beliefs, or were heavier smokers. In addition, smokers low in disengagement more often reported to have cut down on smoking in the graphic condition. There were no indications of habituation of fear and disgust over the 3 weeks. The effects of graphic fear appeals depended on smokers' characteristics: The moderators may explain the mixed findings in the literature. The lack of habituation may be caused by the renewal of the graphics every few days. The used field-experimental design with natural repeated exposure to graphics is promising.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-90
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • public-health campaigns
  • warning labels
  • smoking-cessation
  • disengagement beliefs
  • behavior-change
  • smokers
  • impact
  • messages
  • metaanalysis
  • adolescents

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