The above 30-second PSA is part of a $54 million campaign called Tips From Former Smokers launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday. Using graphic, true-to-life images, the ads are intended to shock people into giving up their smoking habit. The CDC says the campaign is an attempt to counter the more than $100 billion that tobacco companies spend on marketing and promotion.
But how effective will the campaign be in convincing smokers to quit? For the answer, I turned to Jones & Bartlett Learning author, Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, and an expert in cigarette advertising and marketing, tobacco control polices, and their effects on youth and adult smoking behavior:
“On the one hand, this campaign uses actual survivors of tobacco-related illnesses, which makes it potentially strong for current smokers,” said Dr. Siegel “On the other hand, the imagery is so horrific that it is unlikely to engage the attention of young people. The ads also combine fear and shaming, which can sometimes be counterproductive. All in all, my feeling is that this campaign will probably have some effect on current smokers, but little to no impact on youth, who seem impervious to messages about harms that likely will not take place until far in the future.”
Looking at this through the lens of human behavior theory, Dr. Siegel put his finger on a particular concept that affects youth in particular:
“This concept is called 'discounting,' which means attributing less weight to things that happen in the distant future. Many studies have shown that youth have very high rates of discounting. Adult smokers are a different story, and I think they will be impacted by these commercials.”
Dr. Siegel has 25 years of experience in the field of tobacco control and previously spent two years working at the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC, where he conducted research on secondhand smoke and cigarette advertising. Dr. Siegel's book, Marketing Public Health: Strategies to Promote Social Change is being published in its third edition this coming August. Visit us today to request your review copy for Fall 2012.
To read more of Dr. Siegel's thoughts on Big Tobacco, visit his blog The Rest of the Story: http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.com/
To give your students a more formal education in health behavior theories or in marketing and promoting health, choose from our comprehensive line of classroom-ready Public Health textbooks at www.jblearning.com/publichealth.