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Smoking Cessation Health Center

Study: Teen Antismoking Ads Backfiring

Teens Who Watch Some Ads Report Stronger Intentions to Smoke
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'Truth' ads vs. 'Talk' ads continued...

Both studies included authors from the American Legacy Foundation, which created the ads. Foundation research director Donna Vallone says the studies are still valid because they went through the journal's peer-review process.

Tobacco companies were required to contribute to the "truth" campaign as part of the $206 billion settlement agreement they signed with states in 1998. Sutton says Philip Morris contributed more than $780 million to the Legacy Foundation. But the tobacco firms were only required to contribute to "truth" through 2003. The "truth" campaign is running with only 40% of its former budget, Martyak says.

The studies on the Philip Morris campaign are not the only ones to find a boomerang effect on ads targeted at parents. The ubiquitous "Parents: The Anti-Drug" campaign by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has also come under fire.

A 2005 study commissioned by the drug policy office and conducted by research firm Westat showed that greater exposure to the antidrug ads led to "weaker anti-drug norms" and "higher rates of [drug] initiation."

Parents Still Play a Role

Wakefield says her study doesn't suggest that it's pointless for parents to talk to kids about smoking. Instead, she says kids need to get the message that smoking is as foolish for adults as it is for children. Some tips:

  • The most important thing parents can do is quit smokingquit smoking themselves, she says: "Actions speak louder than words."
  • Forbid smoking by adults or children in your home or car.
  • Let your kids know you support antismoking laws.
  • Explain to your kids about how the tobacco industry has targeted children and concealed information about its products.

Califano agrees that the most important thing for parents to do is to model healthy behavior. More than just telling kids not to smoke, drink, or take drugs, parents must also become strongly engaged in their children's lives, he says.

"You need to have a fundamental relationship of trust with your child to send him any message, whether it's don't smoke, don't drink, or don't take drugs."

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