To Brian Flay it was no surprise that the tobacco company-sponsored anti-smoking ads aimed at kids didn’t work. “And the ads aimed at parents telling their kids not to smoke backfired as well,” he explains.He was on a research team that surveyed more than 100,000 students nationwide in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades about TV ads. The results, recently published in the American Journal of Public Health, showed that each additional ad viewed aimed at kids resulted in a 3 percent stronger intention to smoke. When they saw the ads targeted to parents, there was a 12 percent increase in the likelihood that they would smoke.
There are three kinds of smoking-prevention ads, explains Flay, professor of public health and an expert on adolescent substance abuse. There are tobacco-industry ads claiming to promote prevention, state funded anti-smoking ads, and American Legacy Foundation ads funded by tobacco settlement funds. “The state and Legacy ads, which have more negative emotional content, are clearly the most successful,” says Flay. “Twenty-seven percent focus on the short term negative health effects (lost lung capacity, effect on sports), 32 percent on industry manipulation, and 14 percent on the effects of secondhand smoke.” The industry ads focus more on telling parents what to tell kids, suggesting that smoking is “uncool” and presenting the long term health benefits of not smoking.
Flay and his fellow researchers were pleased to see immediate policy implications of their findings. Partly in response to their study, Philip Morris USA decided to not resume its “Talk. They’ll Listen” youth smoking-prevention campaign.
For more information, visit: www.americanlegacy.org