'It's about the smoke, not the smoker': Messages that motivate rural communities to support smoke-free policies

Ganna Kostygina, Ellen J. Hahn, Mary Kay Rayens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Rural residents are exposed to sophisticated tobacco advertising and tobacco growing represents an economic mainstay in many rural communities. There is a need for effective health messages to counter the pro-tobacco culture in these communities. To determine relevant cultural themes and key message features that affect receptivity to pro-health advertisements among rural residents, 11 exploratory focus groups and surveys with community advocates (N = 82) in three rural Kentucky counties were conducted. Participants reviewed and rated a collection of print media advertisements and branding materials used by rural communities to promote smoke-free policies. Findings reveal that negative emotional tone, loss framing, appeals to religiosity, and shifting focus away from smokers are effective strategies with rural audiences. Potential pitfalls were identified. Attacks on smokers may not be a useful strategy. Health risk messages reinforced beliefs of secondhand smoke harm but some argued that the messages needed to appeal to smokers and emphasize health hazards to smokers, rather than to non-smokers only. Messages describing ineffectiveness of smoking sections were understood but participants felt they were only relevant for restaurants and not all public spaces. Emphasis on religiosity and social norms shows promise as a culturally sensitive approach to promoting smoke-free environments in rural communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-71
Number of pages14
JournalHealth Education Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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