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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reaching girls through social networking : is there a new avenue for smoking prevention messages? Struik, Laura Louise


Evidence reveals that adolescent girls are being targeted on the internet by pro-tobacco advocates in order to influence smoking uptake, especially on social networking websites. Despite efforts to prevent smoking, rates of smoking initiation among young women continue to raise concerns. The aim of this interpretive descriptive study was to explore adolescent girls' perspectives about utilizing social networking websites as a medium to deliver tobacco control (TC) messages directed towards young women. Data were collected using three semi-structured focus groups with 17 smoking and non-smoking adolescent girls who were recruited through a recruitment poster and an ad on Facebook. Participants ranged in age from 16 to 19 years old, with a mean age of 17.7 years old (SD=0.69). The participants were provided seven current TC messages directed towards girls for evaluation, and to provide a context for discussion regarding the placement of TC messages on social networking websites. The data were analyzed using constant comparative methods. The findings suggest that young women are receptive to TC messages on social networking sites if messages are interactive, provide access to further information, and are positively framed in relation to becoming or staying smokefree. However, the participants expressed concern about the perceived stereotypical representations of gender and femininity displayed in TC messages and warned that these aspects render TC messages as less effective. Although there were mixed responses to the use of fear appeal messages, participants agreed that TC messages should include aspects that adolescent girls can relate to, such as ensuring the foci of messages are age-specific, include reference to peers and/or family, match the emotional tone in messages to the health and social risks associated with smoking, and refer to activities that are popular among adolescent girls. The findings of this study provide a beginning foundation for the development and evaluation of TC messages directed towards young women on social networking sites and has important implications for policy, practice and future research.

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