Graphic Anti-Smoking Ads Increase Attempts to Quit

by Jenny Novac on October 10, 2012

Graphic television anti-smoking advertisements make more smokers to make an attempt to give up smoking than less serious advertisements, reported by a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Harder impacting advertisements worked similarly well, in spite of how much a person wanted to give up, how much his revenue is and his level of education,” said Matthew C. Farrelly, Ph.D., main author on the study.

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A broken cigarette as a sign of smoking cessation

The research examined the influence of anti-smoking commercials run by the New York Tobacco Control Program from 2003 to 2011. Smokers were analyzed about their smoking habits, their recall of anti-smoking advertisements, their desire to give up smoking and demographic data, such as revenue level and race. Experts viewed media market information and decided that the study members were exposed to an average of three emotional or graphic anti-smoking advertisements and three comparison advertisements per month during that period. Comparison advertisements encouraged smoking cessation but without strong emotional content.

The study determined that present-day smokers who recalled seeing at least one emotional or graphic advertisement were 29 % more probable to have attempted to quit smoking in the previous year. Exposure to comparison advertising did not raise smoking cessation tries. If the aim is to get smokers to consider quitting, advertisements need to suggest a highly negative reaction to smoking, the authors came to the conclusion.

“It shocked me that it would work so well across the board for various kinds of smokers,” Farrelly said. Graphic, emotional advertisements may work well since they cut through the noise of other promotion, he mentioned.

It is identified that hard-hitting anti-smoking promotion is effective, said Erika Sward, director of national advocacy for the American Lung Association in Washington, D.C. “This research confirms and shows that what is missing is the absence of political will from states to do what will work,” she added.

New York State has urban, suburban and rural regions and a wide range of demographics, which indicates that what works there works everywhere, she said. The American Lung Association wants to see states increase taxation on tobacco, approve smoke-free regulations, finance programs to help people give up smoking and run anti-smoking advertising. “When we see that, we see decreases in cigarette consumption,” she said.

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