anti smoking advertisements why they dont work


Smoking has many adverse effects, the most prominent of which are the health problems that it causes the body. Smoking-related illnesses can be serious enough to cause death both to the smoker and second hand smoker. Due to the health hazards generated from tobacco, the government has decided to implement stricter rules and regulations regarding the merchandise of tobacco products. Anti-smoking advocates also sponsor anti-smoking campaigns and advertisements. However, many of the advertisements that they create fail to urge the youth to shun from smoking and indulging into the habit. This paper contains a discussion of the reasons why anti-smoking advertisements fail to work and the repercussions thereof.

Anti-Smoking Advertisements: Why They Don’t Work

The government and tobacco companies continuously warn the public of the dangers of smoking. They create advertisements, forums, and public warnings in order to warn the public of the effects of tobacco and nicotine in the body. However, the heightened efforts of these agencies seem to have little significance among the youth and adult smokers. Anti-smoking advertisements fail to entice the public to stop from smoking.

Anti-smoking Advertisements

            Many anti-smoking advertisements fail to positively influence children who are below 18 years old. A study from the University of Missouri reveals that anti-smoking advertisements, instead of encouraging the youth to kick off the habit of smoking and shun from any form of tobacco addiction, arouses their curiosity. The result of the study indicated that combining fear and disgust in creating anti-smoking advertisements does not yield to a positive effect to the viewers; on the contrary, they tend to ignore this (Lee, 2006). Thus, instead of luring the youth to stay on the safe side of clean living, anti-smoking advertisements attract them to try smoking and get into the habit.

            Many children believe that the portrayal of such advertisements make the perceived effects of smoking unbelievable. The advertisements exaggerate the effects to the point that it no longer looks believable and convincing to the public. The doubt that these advertisements create in the minds of the youth stimulates their rebellious nature and triggers their interest to smoke. It is through curiosity and actual experience that hook many people to smoking (Science Daily, 2008).

            According to Dr. Clayson (2007), in order for an advertisement to become effective, there is a need to create subtle and creative ads. Anti-smoking promoters and agencies need not frighten the viewers in order to receive their desired effects. There is beauty in simplicity. The less intense the advertisements are, the more likely they will have a positive effect among the youth.
The inverse effect of anti-smoking advertisements among the youth is not only caused by their belief that such advertisements are exaggerated, but it is also because movies, the media, and actors as well as actresses make smoking interesting and cool. Based on several studies, adolescents have a greater tendency to be influenced to try smoking if they see their favorite actors or actresses smoking. This is especially true when the character that the actor portrays is very attractive, and the health hazards of smoking are not emphasized (Sharma, 2007). Most movies attach smoking with good looks, appeal, and youthful vigor. The negative effects of first hand and second hand smoke are rarely depicted (Brand Science Institute [BSI], 2008).

Cigarette Smoking as Presented in the Movies and Other Media Outfits

            More often than not, children who watch the movies of their favorite characters have the tendency to imitate their actions and act them out in real life. Allowing children to start smoking at such an early age might lead them to tobacco addiction and expose their bodies to the various health hazards of nicotine. Among the health problems that they may face are cancer of the lungs. This type of cancer is one of the major causes of death among smokers in the 21st century.

            Curbing smoking and promoting healthy habits at a young age may help in the reduction of tobacco addiction. Good habits start while one is still young. It is already difficult to build health conscious activities if one is already immersed to a certain bad habit or if one has already been engaged in it for such a long time.

            Having such a great attachment from the media, today’s youth are easily swayed by whatever is presented in the televisions, movies, and radios; thus, advertisements pertaining to smoking should be well exhibited in the different mediums in order to generate the positive results that it aims to produce from anti-smoking advertisements.

            Movies, advertisements, and television shows should be crafted in such a way that the youth and the other members of the public will believe in what they advocate. It is not enough to present the negative effects of smoking. What is necessary is attaining the desired results from the viewers.

Complementary Relation of and Tobacco

            Another reason why anti-smoking advertisements fail to stop smokers from smoking is the complementary relation of cigarettes and alcohol. Even if anti-smoking advertisers create well-researched campaigns and advertisements, they will still have difficulty generating the result that they desire because alcohol advertisements indirectly encourage smoking. Alcohol advertisements are usually portrayed with people smoking. Hence, even though there are smoking bans, the exhibition of such advertisements has the tendency to encourage smoking. The two activities complement each other and are often done together; more often than not, drinking sessions also include smoking sessions. There is a great tendency to smoke when one is also drinking alcohol because they find comfort in it. Thus, even if anti-cigarette smoking campaigns become successful, if there is a continuous proliferation of alcoholism, then smoking will never be avoided.

Nicotine Addiction

            In addition to the reason indicated above, smoking is a hard habit to break because of the addictive contents of cigarettes or tobaccos. Smoking is not merely a simple activity which can be stopped anytime one wants. Just like prohibited drugs, smoking is an acquired behavioral pattern which is regularly followed until such point that doing the act becomes almost involuntary.

            Nicotine, the addictive content is absorbed by the brain within ten seconds after an individual has inhaled a cigarette smoke. As nicotine reaches the brain, there are several physiological reactions that take place. There is an acute increase in blood pressure and heart rate; the blood vessels constrict, thereby causing the temperature in the hands and feet to drop; the brain waves are altered; and the muscles are relaxed (Health Canada, 2007).

            The receipt of the brain of nicotine paves the way for the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. The discharge thereof prompts the brain to increase the number of nicotine docking stations. When the docking stations do not contain any nicotine, the smoker has the tendency to feel down. Consequently, he longs for nicotine supply in order to revive the happy or feel-good emotion (Walsh, 2004). However, addiction occurs gradually. It may take several weeks before the body can develop a deep desire to infuse the addictive chemical in one’s system.

            The longing for this feel-good emotion is one of the reasons why nicotine addiction is a hard habit to break. The body immediately recognizes nicotine, and the absence of which in one’s system causes the body to adversely react. Getting off from the use thereof also leads to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Among the effects of withdrawal from smoking or nicotine addiction are: irritability, anxiety, depressed mood, impatience, and difficulty in concentrating, hostility, decreased heart rate, and weight gain (American Heart Association [AHA], 2008).

Effects of Nicotine Addiction

            Smoking increases the risk of heart attacks and the hardening of the arteries. Carbon monoxide has the tendency to damage the arteries’ inner walls and encourage the build up of fats. Such building up leads to the contraction and hardening of the blood vessels and the creation of clots in the blood. These clots may yield to deadly heart attacks (AHA, 2008).

            Apart from nicotine addiction, the clever marketing strategies which tobacco companies use in order to attract new customers make it harder for anti-smoking advocates to stop smokers from kicking off their unhealthy habit.

Marketing Strategies

            Although the government mandates tobacco companies to include health warnings pertaining to the negative effects of smoking and prevents the advertisement of the use thereof in both print and broadcast media, these companies still find their way of selling their product to the public.    Among the tactics that these companies do are to reduce the prices of their good and to add flavors to their cigarettes which are appealing to their target markets. There have also been many innovations introduced in the market. Just like candies, cigarettes now have a variety of flavors. They range from the classic menthol flavor to bubblegum and strawberry flavors. They also present a variety in the sizes. Aside from the classic thick cigarette version, tobacco companies have introduced the slim version. The latter is only a bit thicker than the lollipop stick. These innovations in the classic cigarette arouse more interest and curiosity especially from the youth. Just like in any industry, innovations attract customers.

            Tobacco companies are well aware of the fact that most smokers start their bad habit while they are still young. There are only a few people who develop smoking habits during their adult stage. This is the reason why tobacco companies target the youth in order to boost their profits. They strategically place their products near candy displays or other products which kids normally buy. They also indulge in promotional give away and tie up with music and sports events so that they could increase their exposure to teenagers. It has been the findings of research companies that the youth remain loyal to the brand that they become initially addicted until they reach old age (Carney, 2007).

            Another marketing strategy that tobacco companies use is the building of a good image through smoking. Cigarette advertisements often attach smoking with masculinity and beauty. Their advertisements seem to indicate that cigarettes will boost their self-esteem and confidence. Hence, through smoking, boys transform into tough men and girls into cool chicks. Many people who do not feel comfortable about their weight also use tobacco in order to lose extra pounds. They believe that the more nicotine they inhale, the more pounds will be released from their body.

Economic Benefits Generated From Tobacco Companies

            The economic benefits and dependence that are generated from the production of tobacco products are also one of the reasons why curbing the spread and use of cigarettes and other tobacco products in the market is difficult.

            The government does not prohibit tobacco companies to pack up their business; instead, they only increase the taxes that they pay. The revenues generated from these taxes also prove to be a great help in sustaining the various programs and activities of the government. Moreover, tobacco companies also provide jobs to many people from all over the world. They help in preventing the proliferation of unemployed in the streets.

Tobacco companies are huge companies, and they do not only employ a hundred individuals; instead, thousands of them. Their employees range from the rank and file to the managerial positions. In addition to their office workers, they also provide jobs to tobacco farmers retail sellers of their finished products.

            The government as the well as the public enjoys several benefits from the production of tobacco companies. Thus, even though, many anti-smoking advocates campaign for the elimination of tobacco products in the market, this cannot be done completely because of the economic benefits that tobacco companies provide to the people.


            Smoking is a bad habit to break. Once started, it is difficult for the smoker to quit and remove nicotine addiction in his system. This addiction can lead to several deadly diseases such as cancer of the lungs, emphysema, and tuberculosis, among others. These illnesses are not only limited to people who actually smoke but even to people who do not smoke but are exposed to it. Studies have revealed that second smoke has more serious effects than firsthand smoke. Thus, as one smokes, he is not only placing his life in danger but also the lives of the people around him.

            Smoking and nicotine addiction may appear to be simple, but in reality, this addiction can also lead to death. If not treated appropriately and immediately, the illnesses related to smoking may cause serious repercussions and may even prevent the smoker from recovering.

            The prevention of smoking should be a concerted effort of the community. Everyone should participate in order to better facilitate the anti-smoking programs of the government. Advertisements alone are useless if the community and the family do not start instilling in their children the proper values and habits. Parents should be the first advertisers against smoking to their children. They should properly educate them on the negative effects of smoking to the body and to other people. Advertisements are better appreciated if the viewers already have a prior knowledge of the topic.

            Moreover, advertisements should be crafted in such a way that there is still a touch of reality. They should not be exaggerated; otherwise, they will not become believable. The public need not be threatened in order to avoid smoking. They only need to be informed and properly educated regarding smoking and the effects thereof to health, the community, and other people.

            Anti-smoking advocates should also bear in mind that smoking is a personal choice; the same goes true for stopping it. One advertisement or campaign cannot force a smoker to stop if he is not willing. The initiative to stop should come from him and not from the advertisement.


Advertising and children’s use of tobacco. (2004, November 18). National Institute on

Media and the Family. Retrieved November 5, 2008 from

Carney, S. (2007, February 9). Tobacco advertising and teens. Retrieved

November 5, 2008 from

Clayson, M. (2007, February 28). Anti-Smoking Ads. Ezine Articles. Retrieved November 5,

2008 from

Lee, C. (2006, November 1). Anti-Youth smoking ads may have opposite effect. Washington

Post, p.A02.

Sharma, S. (2007, June 14). Stop Smoking Ads Can Increase Intention to Smoke. Insider

Medicine. Retrieved November 5,2008 from

American Heart Association. (2008). Nicotine Addiction. Retrieved November

5, 2008, from

Health Canada. (2007, November 7). Nicotine Addiction. Retrieved November 5, 2008 from,

Brand Science Institute. (2008, January 11). Smoking Scenes in Movies and Antismoking

Advertisements Before Movies: Effects on Youth. Retrieved November 5, 2008 from

University of Missouri-Columbia (2008, October 23). Effective Anti-tobacco Ads Should

Either Scare Or Disgust Viewers, Study Reveals. Science Daily. Retrieved November 5, 2008 from

Walsh, D. (2004). Why Do They Act That Way? A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for

You and Your Teen. New York: Free Press.


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