Objective: To assess teenagers' receptivity to anti-tobacco television advertisements produced by public health organisations and by tobacco companies. Reactions were examined as a function of the message type as well as the respondents' demographics and smoking status.
Design: A 1999 telephone survey of teenagers in households identified during a random digit dial survey of adults conducted during the prior four years. Respondents were asked to describe an ad they had seen in the past 30 days, and then to rate its perceived effectiveness.
Participants: Respondents were 733 youth between the ages of 14 and 17 years.
Intervention: The most prominent anti-tobacco advertisements broadcast in Massachusetts during the time covered by the survey consisted of those produced by the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program and those produced by the Philip Morris tobacco company. The ads described by respondents were grouped into four categories based on their sponsor and their approach.
Main outcome measures: Perceived effectiveness of anti-tobacco advertisements seen during the month before the survey as measured on an 11 point scale.
Results: Ads featuring the serious consequences of smoking were seen as significantly more effective by youth than both Massachusetts ads that did not discuss illness (p < 0.001) and Philip Morris “Think, Don't Smoke” ads (p < 0.001).
Conclusion: Youth prevention programmes should not shy away from anti-tobacco ads that feature the serious consequences of smoking. These types of ads are the ones perceived as most effective by teenagers regardless of their smoking status, age, sex or ethnicity.
- mass media
- smoking prevention
- television advertisements
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