Hard-hitting anti-smoking ad campaigns raise awareness about the serious toll that tobacco use takes on one’s health and the many lives it affects. In the United States, tobacco use is responsible for more than 400,000 deaths each year. For every person who dies from tobacco use, 20 suffer with at least one smoking-related illness. The toll of tobacco goes beyond the lives it takes. It impacts the smoker’s loved ones, including the more than 40,000 children in the U.S. who lose a parent to smoking each year.
Furthermore, smoking affects the numerous non-smokers exposed to hundreds of toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke. Each year, secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for close to 50,000 tobacco-related deaths in the U.S. and more than 300,000 children suffer from bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear infections caused by tobacco smoke.
Can a graphic and emotional ad on TV really make a difference?
The Florida Department of Health’s (FDOH) Tobacco Free Florida campaign uses aggressive ads that show the human impact of smoking as part of a comprehensive program. FDOH and Florida’s Bureau of Tobacco Free Florida (BTFF) select ads that have run in other states and countries and that have had a demonstrated positive effect on inspiring people to seek help in quitting smoking.
Tobacco Free Florida has seen encouraging results in reducing the prevalence of tobacco in the state. Since 2007, there are more than 500,000 fewer adult smokers in Florida and 72,000 people have quit with the 3 Ways to Quit services. As the prevalence of adult smokers decreased, encouraging progress has also been made in protecting the future – Florida’s youth. There are 70,000 fewer youth smokers since 2007 and more than 220,000 fewer youth exposed to secondhand smoke, which contains 69 cancer causing toxins.
Academic research proves that hard-hitting ads work. Strong evidence shows that graphic, hard-hitting anti-tobacco ads are effective, and those that arouse strong negative emotions perform better than those that do not. Hard-hitting media campaigns are not only effective at promoting quit attempts, they also reduce youth tobacco initiation.
• Recent studies suggest televised messages that use graphic images to depict the negative health consequences of smoking and messages that use emotive testimonials depicting loss of family and other smoking-related hardship may be among the most effective in promoting cessation and reinforcing smokers’ intentions to quit.
• According to a study published in June 2010, ads that utilize a why-to-quit strategy with graphic images of the physical consequences of smoking and ads that use testimonials of personal loss from smoking personal testimonials were perceived as more effective among smokers than other ad categories.
• Campaigns show smoking and the serious health consequences linked to smoking to motivate adult smoking cessation have also been associated with prevention of smoking uptake among youth.
• Studies indicate that sad or frightening ads that are highly emotional and feature the serious health consequences of tobacco use score significantly higher among adults on perceived effectiveness compared to ads that are funny or neutral.
• In one study, smokers who report being exposed to more highly emotional and personal testimonial ads were more likely to quit smoking at follow-up.
• Meta-analyses on the use of fear appeals in health campaigns conclude that fear appeals are most effective when accompanied by equally strong efficacy messages, such as information to call a quitline for help and support to quit.
• In New York, researchers found that graphic television ads were strongly associated with higher call volume to a quitline from 2001 to 2009. Two of these ads, “Reverse the Damage – Heart Attack” and “Reverse t he Damage – Lung Cancer” were chosen by the FDOH and BTFF to run in Florida.
• The Australia National Tobacco Campaign, which featured graphic hard-hitting ads depicting the negative health consequences of smoking, found that the campaign achieved high rates of recall and recognition, was appraised favorably by smokers, contributed to new learning about smoking and health, and increased agreement with campaign-related attitudes.,Furthermore, even though the campaign was not targeted at teenagers, the vast majority of adolescents were aware of the campaign and thought it was relevant to them. These ads, “Artery” and “Sponge” were chosen by the FDOH and BTFF to run in Florida.
To view some of Tobacco Free Florida’s ads, please visit www.tobaccofreeflorida.com/tvspots.
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