The Effect of Anti-Smoking Advertising for Adolescents Term Paper

It is widely known that smoking is one of the major causes of a great number of preventable diseases, including cancer. In order to make masses of people aware of the potential risks and dangers, related to smoking, the first antismoking campaigns were launched in 1967 already. Nowadays there are a lot of controversies, related to the need and actual impact of similar anti-smoking campaigns especially upon younger generations. Some of the studies assume that numerous advertisements and campaigns are not effective for young people and future generations. The researchers even claimed that young people tend to smoke more because of these advertisements, which are shown too often to them. Other researchers and experts do not agree with this position and claim that such advertisements and campaigns still have their intended impact and force more young people refuse from smoking. Recent advertisements are rather realistic and acute and they have the potential to bring significant positive changes in the modern society, forcing more people to quit or not even start smoking.

Statistically around 480.000 annual deaths happen due to tobacco use in the United States only. For each person, who dies, another 30 suffer from serious illness, caused by smoking. Such statistical data could not leave authorities indifferent towards the problem of finding the appropriate ways to make young people oppose the idea of smoking. The problem is intensified by the fact that smoking affects not only those individuals, who smoke themselves, but also non-smokers, as there are hundreds of toxic chemicals exposed for the secondhand smokers, impacting negatively their health as well. “Legislators and public health officials in the USA are currently debating the expenditure of millions of dollars flowing into their state coffers from the national tobacco settlement. In these debates, it should be recognized that anti-smoking advertising has the potential to be a viable and cost effective deterrent to youth smoking.” (Wakefield, et. al., 2010).

Nowadays there are various experiments conducted with the aim to clarify, whether anti-smoking campaigns really have their positive effect upon young people. For example the results of the comparison of the “test” (intervention) and “control” (non-intervention) communities showed that anti-smoking advertising had positive impact upon reduction of young smoking prevalence. Especially the cases with involvement of school and community based activities were successful. “Additional supportive evidence comes from controlled laboratory experiments in which adolescents have been exposed either to anti-smoking or control (smoking unrelated) advertisements, and then asked to complete surveys that assessed their smoking related knowledge, perceptions, and behavioral intentions.” (White &Tan, 1999). Those middle- school students, who watched the anti-smoking advertising campaigns, later reported less favorable perceptions of smoking and smokers.

Certainly, it is evident that anti-smoking advertising could do a great work under the condition of creating controlled circumstances, still it is not possible to expect any absolute guarantee from the end effect of the advertising. It is true that there were cases of failures of tobacco use prevention campaigns because of various factors. The creators of anti-smoking campaigns are to face a lot of challenging tasks in the processes of planning and implementation. When making conclusions about the real effectiveness of anti-smoking campaigns, it is important to differentiate between the expected results either of stopping smoking by adults or preventing young people from starting to smoke. These campaigns proved to be effective for providing new evidence and new insights for young people, categorized as non-smokers.

The proponents of the reduction of the advertising campaigns against smoking often use the argument of the extra costs, which are taken from the budget in order to create and run those advertisements. In fact those campaigns cost much less money in comparison to sending individuals to hospitals and helping them overcome the severe consequences of smoking in their lives. Such propaganda has far greater perspectives for the future of younger generations in comparison to potential treatment afterwards. “Research study has shown that the most successful campaigns are exposing the tobacco industry’s manipulation on young adults; focus on themes of second hand smoke and cigarette addiction.”(White &Tan, 1999). A lot depends upon the forms and messages of the campaigns, as certainly the campaigns, which simply state that people should not smoke are less successful. This is actually the worst option for young people, as adolescents are in such a period of their development that they want to become independent, they want to take their own decisions and they do not like to be prohibited anything by adult people, they are convinced that they have the best idea how to look cool and attractive. Unfortunately many of them are assured that smoking could be one of the options for their self-realization. The ads for adolescents should be formulated and performed in such a way that they would have real impact upon their ideas and perceptions of smoking.

The question whether anti-smoking ads have their strong impact is difficult to answer, still considering the statistical data that for example smoking has decreased significantly by young people over the last fifteen years in comparison to the 1990s, when these anti-smoking ads were only launched, it is possible to conclude that young people are still positively impacted by these campaigns. Some researchers assume that one of the reasons of their effectiveness is related to the significant changes in the graphical nature of presentation of the advertisements. This fact was clarified with the help of the interviews with young people upon watching the graphical ads. They say for example: “if their lungs are going to turn black because of smoking, might as well not even start.” (Wakefield, et. al., 2010). The messages are often reinforced by involvement of the people, ready to tell their life stories and honestly inform about their own problems with smoking and their decisions, related to smoking. It is known that adolescents tend not to perceive the information, presented by their parents or even by their teachers positively, as they think that they are influenced and controlled by adults in this way. In case if absolutely strange people provide this kind of information about their own problems, it has the chance to be better perceived by adolescents. “The main message to get across the audience is provide a sadness or fear mood. Teenagers are more bound to learn from personal testimonials because it provides some sort of realness to the picture of the negative effects of smoking.” (White &Tan, 1999).

Overall, smoking and its outcomes is one of the crucial problems in the modern world, especially in relation to younger generations. Decades ago anti-smoking campaigns were launched and nowadays there are a lot of tense and controversial discussions of the real effectiveness of this approach. A lot of opponents are convinced that such campaigns do not bring their positive results and lead to wasting the state money. At the same time the supporters manage to find adequate proofs of the effectiveness of these programs and state that there is a need to continue in the same direction, however paying more attention to forms of these campaigns. For example involvement of social media could be a great step forward in the sphere of anti-smoking advertising. Usage of all the modern technical opportunities for making the videos realistic and impressive could also contribute to increase of the positive outcomes of the programs.

References:

Helping teens stop smoking. (2007). Harvard Mental Health Letter

Pechmann C, Ratneshwar S. (1994) The effects of anti-smoking and cigarette advertising on young adolescents’ perceptions of peers who smoke. Journal of Consumer Research 21:236–251

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014).  The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health

Wakefield, M.A., B. Loken, and R.C. Hornik, Use of mass media campaigns to change health behaviour. Lancet, 2010

White, W., Tan, N. (1999). Do adult focused anti-smoking campaigns have an impact on adolescents? The case of the Australian National Tobacco Campaign

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[Accessed: August 11, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2020]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: August 11, 2020]