Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of portrayed smoking status of actors on
their popularity with both smoking and non-smoking young people, as well as their perceptions of the
prevalence of smoking
Design/methodology/approach Two experimental studies were conducted with Australian
undergraduate university students, in which students were exposed to different versions of mock
magazines featuring images of actors smoking and not smoking, as well as control actors.
Findings The attitudes of young people towards well-known actors were little influenced by the
presence or absence of cigarettes, but non-smoking actors were perceived more favourably when
depicted in a group with smoking actors. Smoking actors tended to be preferred by young people who
smoked. The results of both studies confirm that young peoples estimates of smoking prevalence are
Originality/value The results of the current study suggest two key implications for health
education: the need to address young peoples elevated perceptions of smoking prevalence among their
peers, parents, and celebrities by communicating the social norm of non-smoking; and the potential use
of celebrities such as actors as spokespersons or role models in anti-smoking campaigns.
Keywords Tobacco, Magazines, Australia, Young adults, Influence, Behaviour
Paper type Research paper