Collection: Addiction 101
Addiction themed ads are a reminder for smokers and a warning for nonsmokers that smoking is very addictive. Whether they realize it yet, once they become addicted, it will be very hard to quit. For smokers, these ads offer support (usually numbers of quit lines) to help smokers quit. They also point out that nicotine is responsible for the addictive qualities of smoking.
The effectiveness of addiction-themed anti-smoking ads among youth varies depending on the delivery of the theme. Youth are not receptive to ads that warn of addiction by smoking. They have just started smoking, and they smoke primarily for social reasons, not because they crave it. They are not yet addicted, so they think they can quit before they are affected or find it hard to believe these claims can apply to them (4). Pechmann 2003 demonstrates that exposure to these ads do increase the perceptions of health risk severity, but this change in awareness does not lead to reduced intentions to smoke because there is still low perception of vulnerability (3).
However addiction can be very effective when it is portrayed as a manipulative tactic employed by the tobacco industry (2). Generally, the audience already knows not to believe Big Tobacco’s claim that smoking is not addictive, but this recognition does not affect their perception of the industry. Big Tobacco is merely stretching the truth to sell their product, which is no different from practically any other company.
On the other hand, showing youth that Big Tobacco is not just trying to persuade them, but that they are trying to control them through nicotine does change the way Big Tobacco is viewed. Youth want to be in control of their actions and the desire to try smoking is strongest at a young age. Smoking is often an act of rebellion against rules set by an authority that is dictating to them what is right and wrong. It is resistance against conformity during a time of self-discovery (1). However, realizing that someone is manipulating them to believe these things about smoking undermines all that smoking stands for. This invokes strong reactions because it relates to young smokers’ current experiences, unlike warnings about smoking’s addictiveness, which forces smokers to imagine a situation they have not yet experienced, and thus cannot yet grasp (1).
Beaudoin CE. Exploring Antismoking Ads: Appeals, Themes, and Consequences. Journal of Health Communication 2002; 7: 123-137.
2. Goldman LK, Glantz SA. Evaluation of Antismoking Advertising Campaigns. JAMA 1998; 279: 772-777.
3. Pechmann C, Zhao G, Goldberg ME, Reibling ET. What to Convey in Antismoking Advertisements for Adolescents: The Use of Protection Motivation Theory to Identify Effective Message Themes. Journal of Marketing 2003; 67: 1-18.
4. Schar E, Gutierrez K, Murphy-Hoefer R, Nelson DE. Tobacco Use Prevention Media Campaigns: Lessons Learned from Youth in Nine Countries. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on smoking and Health; 2006.