A new study has found that advertisements that give a reason to smokers to quit are more successful in terms of persuasion than messages that explain how to go about it.
The study found that smokers who viewed advertisements featuring reasons why to quit were substantially more likely to quit smoking after the four-week study period.
However, advertisements with messages about how to quit smoking had no effect on an individual's smoking behavior.
Jennifer Duke, senior research public health analyst at RTI and co-author of the study, said that why to quit smoking messages are more powerful because those advertisements typically show graphic portrayals of the health consequences of smoking or feature personal testimonies to evoke emotion, whereas, how to quit messages are designed to increase an individual's belief that he or she can quit.
The new research findings are consistent with the results of previous studies; however, this study is unique because it is the first to find that brief exposure to advertisements containing messages about why to quit smoking that feature strong, negative emotions or graphic images can influence smoking behaviors.
The study examined the effectiveness of various combinations of why to quit and how to quit message strategies in a randomized controlled experiment among a nationally representative sample of 3,000 smokers in US.
During the four-week study period, participants completed a baseline survey and follow-up interviews at two and four weeks to determine the short-term impact of the advertisements.
After 2 weeks, the study found that smokers who viewed advertisements with messages about why to quit smoking reported increased concern about the health consequences of smoking and greater intentions to quit smoking in the following six months as compared to smokers who did not view the advertisements.
After 4 weeks, smokers who viewed advertisements with messages about why to quit smoking were six to 10 times more likely to have quit smoking as compared to smokers who viewed no advertisements.
Smokers who only viewed advertisements about how to quit smoking did not change their smoking habits or intentions to quit at either stage of the study.
The study also found that exposure to a combination of messages about why to quit and how to quit smoking did not improve the impact of the advertisements more than only viewing advertisements about why to quit smoking.
The study is published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.