The message of quitting is widespread in anti-smoking advertisement and is found practically throughout every theme. Cessation ads explicitly advise their target audience to quit smoking. They offer certain objectives for quitting, including more money, improved health, and freeing up time and energy to engage in other exciting activities. These ads often acknowledge that quitting is extremely difficult, but they provide advice and support for quitting. Many of them employ an empathetic smoker-to-smoker voice that shows smokers they are not alone in their struggles.
There is also an array of cessation ads sponsored by nicotine-replacement products and other anti-smoking products. Their main purpose is not exactly aligned with public health departments’ concern for improving the well-being of the community, but rather focuses on marketing an alternative product to smokers. Many of these product-sponsored ads are more creative than the cessation ads produced by public health departments and other health organizations. This difference may reflect the inequality in funding and resources between businesses and non-profit organizations. There are some product-sponsored ads that do use tactics and persuasive messages similar to those used in public health messages, such as demonstrating incentives to quit smoking ranging from personal health and the health of children to personal beauty. However, unlike public health ads, which are persuading smokers to quit, many of these anti-smoking product ads are targeted to an audience that already wants to quit, making it unlikely that these ads make a significant difference in reducing the number of individuals attempting to quit smoking.
Cessation ads target all age groups, though they are more commonly directed towards adult smokers, because these ads have been correlated with increasing quit attempts in older age groups (1). The success of these ads begins by getting smokers to think about quitting. They then help to increase attempts to quit, often by providing a plan and/or a phone number for a support or quitline. (1, 2). In 1991, California’s antismoking campaign’s heavy focus on cessation efforts resulted in dramatic increases in calls to local health departments and quitlines (1). Many former smokers have, to some degree, attributed their decision to quit to their exposure to anti-smoking ads. In one study, 6.7% of smokers who were interviewed and uncued about the influence of antismoking ads on their decision to quit admitted that antismoking ads were the main reason they quit. When cued, 34.3% said the media campaigns were influential in their decision to quit. (3).
Cessation ads are an important component of antismoking campaigns because of their effectiveness in reducing the prevalence of smoking in the adult population. The power of the message of quitting can also be enhanced when coupled or rotated with other themes, such as anti-industry manipulation and secondhand smoke (1). Although cessation advertisements play an important role in the fight against smoking, they should not be the only antismoking campaigns in circulation. Again, the majority of adult smokers pick up the habit when they are under 18, and prevention among youth is extremely important in the fight to eliminate smoking.
1. Goldman LK, Glantz SA. Evaluation of Antismoking Advertising Campaigns. JAMA 1998; 279: 772-777.
2. Valone DM, Duke JC, Mowery PD, McCausland KL, Xiao H, Constantino JC, Asche ET, Cullen J, Allen JA. The Impact of EX: Results from a Pilot Smoking-Cessation Media Campaign. Am J Prev Med 2010; 38(3S): S312-S318
3. Popham WJ, Potter LD, Bal DG, Johnson MD, Duerr JM, Quinn V. Do Anti-Smoking Media Campaigns Help Smokers Quit? Public Health Reports 1993; 108(4): 510-513.