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IJERPH, Vol. 14, Pages 938: An Experiment Assessing Punitive versus Wellness Framing of a Tobacco-Free Campus Policy on Students’ Perceived Level of University Support

20 Aug 2017

IJERPH, Vol. 14, Pages 938: An Experiment Assessing Punitive versus Wellness Framing of a Tobacco-Free Campus Policy on Students’ Perceived Level of University Support

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health doi: 10.3390/ijerph14080938

Authors:
Joseph Lee
Christopher Purcell
Beth Chaney

The objective of this study was to examine how different ways of describing a hypothetical tobacco-free campus policy would impact college students’ perceived level of support from the college. In the spring of 2016, we randomized 1885 undergraduate students in a required course to three message conditions in an online survey: control (no message), wellness (emphasizing promoting health and quitting support), and punitive (emphasizing consequences for violating the policy). The dependent variable was perceived organizational support. We selected items previously shown to be relevant for college students (alpha = 0.92 in our data). Given significant non-normality, we used non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis tests with pairwise comparisons to examine differences in perceived organizational support across the three conditions. We examined results by smoking status and if the participant correctly reported the message they received. We found no significant difference in perceived organizational support among students exposed to different tobacco-free campus policy announcements (p = 0.75). We also found no significant difference among smokers (p = 0.66). However, among smokers who correctly reported the message they received, we found significantly lower perceived university support (p = 0.01). Messages about tobacco-free campus policies should focus on the role of policy in supporting a healthy environment instead of punitive enforcement. Campus administrators should use caution when using message frames focusing on consequences of violating newly adopted policies.

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