Physical addiction needs more than lip-service

shutterstock_441927517Traditional “fear” appeals to quit smoking have no immediate relevance to youth, according to research by the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore, published in Tobacco Control.

“Scare tactics are just old news. I mean we smoke, we know, we are all educated people. We know the risk of it,” said a 22-year old woman interviewed as part of the research.

Another young woman said: “I think the reason why we kind of ignore about these messages is because we have the thought that it won’t strike us at this age. And it only strikes us when we grow older and you know, probably what would happen? You don’t really care.”

Meanwhile research found that positive, low-fear images, “low-controlling language” and a genuine spokesperson were seen as most effective by youngsters. Foreign campaigns may inspire less cynicism, too, say the researchers, as they were not affiliated with local authorities.

However, even effective messages only had a short-term impact.

In the paper, Singaporean youngsters complain that physical addiction to nicotine requires more extensive efforts than lip-service by authorities. “It’s not something that I can say, ‘Hey, I’m not gonna smoke for today,’ just ’cause the poster’s there” said one 24-year old woman interviewed by researchers.

According to researchers “While campaigns were useful in creating cognitive shifts, such effects were ephemeral. Scientifically rigorous programmes should be made easily available and at low cost to support youths in long-term efforts to quit smoking. Many of the youths lacked alternative coping support as well as self-efficacy, that is, one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in a behaviour, to quit.”

The article is available free of charge at

Shahwan S, Fauziana R, Satghare P, et al. Qualitative study of Singaporean youths’ perception of antismoking campaigns: what works and what does not Tobacco Control 2016;25:e101-e106.

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