TOBACCO: Antismoking Ads Should Be Targeted at Teens
Arguing that most anti-smoking ads aimed at teens use ineffective tactics, a University of California-Irvine professor has found that teens respond most to specific advertisements with "a laser approach," the Los Angeles Times reports. Connie Pechmann studied antismoking campaigns in five states and Canada from 1985 to 1997. Vermont's ad campaign, which "featured young, attractive role models who refused cigarettes," was most successful, as it induced a 50% drop in smoking. "You need to use young people in the ads to talk to other young people. People listen to spokespeople that are like them; they view the info as more credible and more relevant," she said. Sticking to one antismoking theme helps kids to focus on the dangers of tobacco, as multiple messages "all melt together in a big conglomeration," one California teen says. Pechmann, citing a 1997 California ad which featured a father smoking next to his baby, said that "[o]ne good message is to stress that secondhand smoke hurts innocent victims. Kids get very upset by that." Another effective approach is "to say that smokers have chosen a bad path in life and are destined for trouble," she said. Common themes used in many antismoking ads, however, such as long term health risks or cosmetic risks don't connect with kids. Pechmann would like states initiating antitobacco campaigns to use her research to develop an effective message. "I think there's a simple path to success ... [and] I'd like to help [states] follow that path in the future" (Rose, 8/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.