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Secret Weapon for Quit-Smoking Campaigns: Pets

MONDAY, April 10, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Put out that cigarette for the health of your four-legged friend.

When smokers search social media for anti-tobacco information, they tend to engage most with posts about the risk of secondhand smoke on their pets, a new study reveals.

Posts with new information about harmful chemicals also receive high engagement, researchers found.

“Our results show that people respond to messaging on how smoking negatively affects the lives of those they care about, including pets. Messages that are personally meaningful to smokers can help to generate positive behavioral changes among smokers,” said principal investigator Hong Xue, an associate professor of health administration at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

“Anti-tobacco campaigns can use these findings to improve their campaigns, better engage the public, and more effectively promote reasons to stop smoking," he said in a university news release.

The researchers used machine learning and social media data to analyze factors that influence effective anti-smoking campaigns and user engagement. The study was led by Xue and GMU associate professor Gilbert Gimm.

They described their work as the first large-scale social media data mining study that examined key anti-tobacco campaigns in the United States.

Their research also found that large campaigns from government and nonprofit organizations had greater user engagement than smaller and local campaigns. Facebook users were much more likely to engage in messages with videos.

About 12.5% of U.S. adults smoke cigarettes. More than one-third of U.S. adults seek health information online.

This makes social media a potentially powerful platform for anti-tobacco campaigns, according to the study.

Study findings were published recently in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on its “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign.

SOURCE: George Mason University, news release, April 6, 2023

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