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Smoking ads don't always work

12th June 2007

Researchers in Australia who studied the effects of anti-smoking advertisements on young people say the ads often have the opposite effect and encourage people to keep smoking.

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Their findings, published in the Tobacco Control Journal, showed that advertisements showed to cinema-goers before a film which glamorised smoking had little effect on the viewers' intentions with regard to smoking.

Researchers at Newcastle University polled 3,100 people aged 12 to 24, of whom around one-fifth were already smokers. The smokers said they were more likely to keep smoking as a result, while the non-smokers became more anti-smoking after they watched the advertisement.

The advertisement was shot in the style of a movie trailer, but was shown to have little impact on people's motivation to give up the habit.

More than half the 12 to 24-year-olds who viewed a film, were shown the advert, while the rest were not.

After the film, a quarter of respondents who did not see the advert said they were unlikely to be smoking in 12 months time. This compared to 39% who did see it.

Non-smokers' resolve to remain non-smokers changed little, from 94% among those who did not see the film, to 96% among those who did.

But lead researcher Diane Bull said anti-smoking adverts could work. She warned that caution was needed, as some types of advertising might reinforce smokers' intentions to smoke.

She pointed to smoking in movies by top actors as an important factor currently influencing young people to take up smoking.

Smoking lobby groups said people were getting fed up with being dictated to by the government, and increased anti-smoking campaigning was likely to give rise to a backlash.

 

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