Research shows anti-smoking campaigns should target misconceptions


Tobacco control initiatives should consider focusing on dispelling false beliefs like that smoking elevates moods, reduces stress and provides comfort, a new study has found.

The study by researchers from Charles Darwin University (CDU), the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) in Pakistan and Griffith University was published recently in the Journal of Social Marketing.

It focused on identifying which social and psychological factors better determine intentions to quit smoking, with the aim of informing public health policy.

CDU Senior Lecturer in Business and lead author Dr Muhammad Abid Saleem said results showed several key themes about participants’ attitudes to smoking tobacco and showed how prevention efforts could be improved.

“Smokers should be encouraged to correct their misconception that smoking elates moods, reduces stress and provides comfort,” Dr Saleem said.

“Social marketing campaigns targeting tobacco consumption should highlight the adverse health effects of tobacco consumption and emphasise that misconceptions related to the positive psychological effects of smoking, in reality, hold no value.”

The study was conducted in Pakistan, where 19.1 per cent of adults are active smokers and where tobacco control policies include smoke-free places, bans on tobacco advertising, promotions and sponsorships, text and picture warning labels on cigarette packs and increases in tobacco taxation.

There were 1500 questionnaires distributed across eight public sector universities in the South Punjab province. There were 371 usable responses received, 89.49 per cent from men and 10.51 per cent from women, primarily aged 18 to 24.

Barriers to stopping smoking, including loss of company of friends and lack of concentration on work, were mentioned 37 times by participants.

Pushes to stop smoking, including family pressure, friends’ advice and clergy pressure were mentioned 68 times.

Psychological satisfaction from smoking, including reducing depression, aggression and relaxing the mind were mentioned 25 times by participants.

“To break through the psychological defence of rationalisation and denial, tobacco control initiatives may need to adopt evidence-based fear appeals supported by real-life endorsements and high-credibility sources,” Dr Saleem said.

“Such campaigns will likely evoke motivational conflict and defuse earlier beliefs about the psychological benefits of smoking. Smoking as a vehicle to enhance socialising opportunities is another delusion that should be targeted through community engagement and the involvement of social institutions such as family.”

The full findings of ‘Addiction or social need: towards a model to predict smoking cessation intentions’ are available online.

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