Anti-Smoking Ads Fail to Curb Teen Smoking
> 7/24/2007 12:58:14 PM

According to a new study out of the University of Georgia, anti-smoking advertisements do very little to dissuade middle school students from smoking—in fact, they increase the likelihood of teens picking up the habit.

In speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the study's lead author, Hye-Jin Paek revealed why she feels many anti-smoking advertisements fail to accomplish their mission. According to Paek many ads inadvertently encourage rebellion. The team's research found that the reason many of the ads have such an adverse effect could be in part due to the authoritative stance many advertisements take. Paek believes teens will not respond to ads which make them feel like they are being talked “down” too. She maintains a more “peer focused” approach by companies would be more beneficial.

The Journal-Constituion quotes Paek, who said:

"Rather than saying, 'don't smoke,' it is better to say, "your friends are listening to this message and not smoking," she said. "It doesn't really matter what their peers are actually doing."

The study comes on the heels of numerous studies which showed that anti- smoking campaigns had little effect on teens. In 2002, a survey by an anti smoking foundation reported that campaigns by tobacco company Philip Morris were unsucessful in their attempts to prevent the likelihood of youth smoking.  In addition, data obtained from Tobacco Free Kids reveal that over 200,000 kids became regular smokers this year. Of that percentage, an estimated 74,541 will die prematurely from their addiction.

While the results of this study may not stun some, they are important in helping to inform our understanding of how to better prevent teen smoking. Often anti-smoking ads are funded by non-profits or even the government, both of whom cannont afford to waste money on ineffective ads. Paek's research should provide a guide to making better use of the limited funds that we have to counteract the tobacco companies and their efforts.

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