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An Experiment Assessing Punitive versus Wellness Framing of a Tobacco-Free Campus Policy on Students’ Perceived Level of University Support

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Department of Health Education and Promotion, College of Health and Human Performance, East Carolina University, Mail Stop 529, 1000 E. 5th St., Greenville, NC 27858, USA
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Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Peabody School of Education, Vanderbilt University, PMB #414, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(8), 938; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080938
Received: 21 July 2017 / Revised: 10 August 2017 / Accepted: 17 August 2017 / Published: 20 August 2017
(This article belongs to the Section Health Behavior, Chronic Disease and Health Promotion)
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. View Full-Text
Keywords: universities; health policy; communication; smoke-free; organizational support universities; health policy; communication; smoke-free; organizational support
MDPI and ACS Style

Lee, J.G.L.; Purcell, C.J.; Chaney, B.H. An Experiment Assessing Punitive versus Wellness Framing of a Tobacco-Free Campus Policy on Students’ Perceived Level of University Support. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 938.

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