New research published by RTI International, indicates that “brief exposure to emotionally compelling anti-smoking television ads, with messages about why to quit smoking, can influence a smoker to quit within a month, while ads about how to quit smoking do not influence smoking behaviours”.
The study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, found that smokers who viewed ads featuring emotionally compelling reasons why to quit, were substantially more likely to quit smoking after the four week period. However, ads with messages about how to quit smoking had no effect on an individual’s smoking behaviour. The study also highlighted findings that suggest ads containing messages about why to quit smoking, that also feature strong, negative emotions or graphic images can influence smoking behaviours.
To me, as a stop smoking advisor, this makes absolute sense. It is so important to help people find the best way for them to stop smoking – and stay smoke free. But they have to be at that point to really benefit from this advice. Telling people about NRT/Champix, the ‘not a puff’ rule, what withdrawal symptoms they can expect, and how it gets easier after the first few weeks is all very useful, but if they have not reached the decision that they want to quit, it will be of little use to them.
The graphic images in anti-smoking adverts and the emotional pleas about being there for your family do seem to have a great impact. I’ve met with lots of clients who have spoken about TV ads, such as the ‘fatty cigarette’ and the ‘artery’ advert, which shows fat being squeezed from the arteries… these images really do stay with people.
Even if they dismiss it at the time, it must filter through as people do turn up to our clinics with definite ideas of stopping smoking, and importantly, why they want to stop. It is part of our job as stop smoking advisors to keep reminding people of these motivations along their journey – especially through the tough weeks when they may be tempted to relapse.