Anti-smoking advertisements could lower smokers' self-esteem making them angry and defensive which would make it less likely for them to quit revealed a new study. The findings suggested that stigmatizing smoking could, in some cases, make it harder for people to quit because the negative messages can lead to a drop in self-esteem.
Rebecca Evans-Polce of the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center said, "Consequences of stigmatizing stereotypes ranged from increased intentions to quit smoking to increased stress to greater resistance to quitting smoking."
‘Stigmatizing smoking makes it harder for some people to quit because the negative messages can lead to a drop in self-esteem. Health policies should instead focus on more positive strategies that reinforce the benefits of giving up smoking rather than reiterating negative stereotypes.’
For the study, researchers conducted a review of almost 600 articles relating to smoking self-stigma. The authors said, "Health policies could instead focus on more positive strategies, reinforcing the benefits of giving up smoking rather than reiterating negative stereotypes. The stereotypes that smokers dealt with were almost universally negative."
The researchers found that 30-40% of smokers felt high levels of family disapproval and social unacceptability and 27% felt they were treated differently due to their smoking status. Another study found that 39% of smokers believed that people thought less of them.
Evans-Lacko said, "The stigma for parents who smoked was particularly strong. The stigma surrounding smokers leads to a number of different outcomes, including relapses, increased resistance to quitting, self-induced social isolation and higher stress levels. The evidence showed that vulnerable groups with few coping resources would benefit from anti-smoking programs that did not stigmatize smoking but focus instead on the benefits of giving up."
The study is published in the Journal Social Science and Medicine.