Compaign Theme: Teens



The percentage of teenage smokers is significantly lower than that of adult smokers, but many public health agencies and other organizations publish anti-tobacco advertisements that target the youth. The reason for this is that the vast majority of those who will die from tobacco begin smoking at age 18 or younger, so these ads serve a preventative purpose to reduce the number of smokers in the next adult generation.1

One tactic used in anti-smoking advertisements is to include graphic images of the harmful physiological effects of smoking, such as mutilated mouths, to highlight how smoking cigarettes can cause great bodily harm and even death. However, instead of scaring youth from smoking, these advertisements can be perceived by youth as so dramaticized that they believe they will not suffer such negative effects with the low frequency at which they are smoking and be able to quit before they cause great harm to their bodies; messages only stressing short and long term effects of smoking are relatively ineffective with teens.2

Another tactic that has been proven to be quite effective at reaching out to youth is to incorporate messages about industry manipulation in anti-smoking advertisements. For example, the Truth campaign is an excellent example of advertisements that shine light on how Big Tobacco companies use deceptive strategies to conceal the lethality of cigarettes and purposely try to addict teenagers so that they can replace older smokers.4 This industry lies approach is effective because youth want to make their own decisions--such as the decision to smoke--to show their independence by rebelling against authority figures who they tell them to do otherwise; however, they do not realize how they are actually being manipulated and losing their independence by listening to to tobacco companies.5 In fact, some successful advertisements have presented not smoking as a statement against industry power, manipulation and authority, appealing to the teen desire to rebel. 5

Since teenagers are still young, having role models they can relate to serve as spokespeople can make messages in anti-smoking advertisements have a bigger impact: when audiences identify with a spokesperson, they are more likely to accept that person's opinions and recommendations as credible and relevant to their own lives. 2 For youth, the spokesperson should be just a little older than the adolescents because the goal is to have someone who they aspire to be like.2 However, some people are wary of showing images of actors smoking in advertisements because adolescents already overestimate the prevalence of smoking in peer and adult populations, so these depictions may increase the risk of smoking initiation.2

References: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

   →  View Larger Image