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Adults' response to Massachusetts anti-tobacco television advertisements: impact of viewer and advertisement characteristics
  1. Lois Biener,
  2. Garth McCallum-Keeler,
  3. Amy L Nyman
  1. Center for Survey Research, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Lois Biener, PhD, Center for Survey Research, University of Massachusetts Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, MA 02125, USA;lois.biener{at}


OBJECTIVE To assess adults' receptivity to the Massachusetts television anti-tobacco campaign. Reactions were examined as a function of respondents' demographics, baseline tobacco control attitudes, changes in smoking status during the campaign, and advertisements' affective qualities.

DESIGN A random digit dial telephone survey in 1993 at the start of the media campaign and re-interview in 1996 of respondents to the baseline survey.

PARTICIPANTS Respondents were 1544 adults who completed the baseline and follow up interview.

INTERVENTION By the time the follow up survey was completed, approximately $49 million had been spent on the media campaign. Approximately 66 spots had been aired.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Reported exposure to television advertisements; perceived effectiveness of nine specific advertisements each.

RESULTS 56% of respondents reported seeing anti-tobacco advertisements at least once a week during the preceding three years. The average effectiveness rating for all advertisements recalled on a 0–10 scale was 7.29, and did not differ by smoking status group. Advertisements eliciting strong negative emotions (sadness and fear) were rated most effective by quitters, non-smokers, and by smokers who at baseline were planning to quit soon. Humorous, entertaining advertisements were seen as ineffective by all groups.

CONCLUSION The Massachusetts anti-tobacco campaign achieved high levels of penetration into the population and was well received by both smokers and non-smokers. The results suggest that advertisements depicting suffering as a result of tobacco use may be instrumental in promoting cessation or reinforcing the decision to quit. Further research is needed to lend additional support to the link between perceived effectiveness and smoking behaviour change.

  • mass media
  • counter advertising
  • fear appeals

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