To Quit Smoking, Think In Terms of Benefits, Not Consequences

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A recent study found that smokers are more persuaded to stop smoking when the benefits of quitting are emphasized, rather than the negative consequences of continuing to smoke. The study was published online January 7 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The Study

Between March and June 2008, callers to the New York State Smokers' Quitline received one of two messages from the answering specialists: either a new message that emphasized the benefits of quitting (gain-framed messages), or the standard message about potential losses due to smoking and the benefits of quitting. When contacted two weeks after the initial call, smokers who received the gain-framed message were more likely to report attempts at quitting and a higher rate of non-smoking than those who received the standard message. A later follow-up, three months after the initial call, found that the differences between the two groups had disappeared. The researchers concluded that "gain-framed statements appear to be somewhat beneficial in enhancing short-term smoking cessation and other secondary outcomes, such as quit attempts and positive health expectancies."

What Does This Mean?

People often try to encourage others to quit smoking by focusing on the negative consequences associated with smoking, but this study's findings suggest that may not be the most effective approach. Quit lines and other smoking cessation programs may find that new strategies - such as gain-framed statements - are more effective than the ones they are currently employing. If you or a loved one is trying to quit smoking, it may be helpful to think in terms of benefits rather than consequences.

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