Monday, February 05, 2007

Anti-smoking ads directed at parents of teens backfire (guess who sponsored them?)

From WebMD:
Oct. 31, 2006 -- What's the best way to convince a teenager that smoking is a great idea? Tell him his parents want him to stop.

That's the rather disturbing suggestion of a study of teens who had watched tobacco-industry-funded television ads urging parents to talk to their children about smoking. The study shows that these teens were more likely to have smoked in the past month and more likely to say that they planned to smoke in the future.
There are three important points to get clear about the ads:
  • These ads were not ostensibly aimed at teenagers, instead they were aimed at parents of teenagers, encouraging them to talk to their kids about smoking. (Ads directly aimed at teenagers apparently have no effect on teen smoking.)
  • Teenagers who saw the ads were more likely to smoke afterwards. (Presumably on the theory that anything your parent's are against must be cool...)
  • These "unfortunately" counterproductive ads were paid for by the tobacco industry.
Joseph Califano, former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and the current director of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse says that these results are pretty predictable:
Califano urges tobacco firms to resume funding the National Public Education Fund, which sponsors the "truth" campaign of antismoking ads. Those hard-hitting ads portray teenagers confronting the tobacco industry for marketing a deadly product and lying about its effects. In one well-known "truth" ad, kids piled body bags outside of a tobacco company's headquarters as part of a protest.

Studies show that it's the most rebellious teens who are most at risk of smoking, says Joseph Martyak, marketing chief for the American Legacy Foundation, makers of the "truth" ads. The "truth" ads "speak to that rebellion" by encouraging rebelliousness toward the tobacco companies, Martyak tells WebMD.

By contrast, the "Talk, They'll Listen" ads, "by telling parents to tell the child not to smoke, draw a line in the sand for kids who are looking for a way to rebel."
This is a big issue for me at the moment because my teenager smokes and I really don't know what to do about it.


Blogger RichM said...

I was going to say something about how it is probably fine as long as you can convince him to get regular checkups at the doctor, but then I remembered that when I was his age I didn't go in for regular checkups, and I doubt that you did either. So I'm afraid I don't have any wisdom on this conundrum.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

My teenager does too. What are they thinking?

I'm surprised that we don't see more celebrity anti-smoking adds. I think that would be very effective. And I would expect that a lot of celebrities and sports stars would be willing to do the adds for free, as a public service.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

While we are on the subject, I would strongly support tougher anti-smoking laws for teenagers. In most states, it's against the law to sell cigarettes to someone under 18, but not to provide them. Sheen started smokeing at 14--mostly at a friends house. She later admitted that his parents provided the cigarettes.

1:12 PM  
Blogger RichM said...

The celebrities might make the ads for free, but the networks have to have an incentive to air them instead of a paying ad. I think because they haven't had cigarette ads on TV for a long time now, they aren't required by regulation to air advocacy ads opposing smoking either. So it's a matter of $.

7:52 AM  
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