Study Finds Anti-Smoking Ads May Backfire

The intent is to shock smokers into quitting

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Do the new anti-smoking warnings on cigarettes really work? (Published Tuesday, Aug 23, 2011)

    The intent of the anti-smoking ads is to shock smokers into quitting. One ad shows fatty deposits oozing out of a 32-year-old dead smoker's aorta.

    "Every cigarette is doing you damage” proclaims the announcer at the end of the ad.
    They are definitely memorable, but are these ads simply turning smokers off?
    Vanessa Vargas of Pembroke Pines has never smoked, but her husband does. 
    “They’re disgusting and hideous. He won’t change because of them. He just changes the channel. He thinks they’re gross,” she said of the ads.
    Researchers at the University of Missouri studied the effects of these anti-smoking ads and found their scare tactics might actually backfire. The research was published in the Journal of Media Psychology.
    Forty-nine participants were shown the ads and their emotional responses were measured. When they contained disturbing and threatening messages they had a defensive response, causing the smoker to avoid the image but not cigarettes.
    Ed Gornik has smoked for 19 years and has tried unsuccessfully to quit.
    He said he finds the ads “annoying.”
    "Because I think if you pay attention to them and listen it kind of makes you think 'Really, is it propaganda?' I turn them off. I honestly do," he said.