Skull and bones on cartons? Think again. Such scare tactics might not deter the youth, an Australian research shows.
The pilot study, by communication academics James Mahoney and Amanda Burrell at the University of Canberra, examined 234 first, second and third year students' awareness of anti-smoking campaigns.
They sought to figure out whether anti-smoking messages were effective among them.
The students surveyed were asked to rank the communication methods they felt were most likely to be effective. Young men responded best to television advertisements, while young women were more likely to respond to warnings from their doctor. Teachers weren't seen as a credible source of information, while scare tactics were viewed with scepticism.
"Anti-smoking messages need to be written in ways that address the needs of young people and the reasons they smoke, rather than trying to scare them into action," Mahoney said.
"Different communication strategies should be tailored to smokers' age and gender and spokespeople for the campaigns should credible to a young audience."
Every one of them seemed aware of the health risks associated with smoking, but smokers wouldn't give up because they enjoyed it, they couldn't quit, they found it relaxing or their friends smoked.
"No one we surveyed said they didn't believe smoking would harm their health and nearly everyone remembered some kind of anti-smoking message, so in one sense the campaigns have been highly successful," Mahoney said.
"But despite all the warnings, young people are still smoking and we need to take a serious look at the way we're communicating with them about this habit."
In a "surprising" finding, students who smoked socially or only when drinking alcohol tended to class themselves as non-smokers.
The researchers argue a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to health promotion is not the answer.
In the study, the researchers outlined a number of recommendations for future reference. Including future anti-smoking public information programs should utilise messages and message delivery strategies, that more accurately reflect the different ways in which males and females prefer to receive messages and that care should be taken to write anti-smoking messages instead of scaring them into action.