Fear of impotence and wrinkles drive smokers to quit

smokingHere is some basic information about some of the numerous dangers of smoking:

. Scientists say that the average smoker will lose 14 years of their life because of smoking.

. Smokers are twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack in comparison to their non-smoking counterparts.

. Smoking has been proven to be directly responsible for many types of cancer including: throat, lung, kidney, bladder, stomach, liver and cervix.

. Smoking accounts for 71% of all lung cancer deaths.

Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking these reasons alone would be enough of a deterrent for smoking and perhaps persuade current smokers into quitting smoking to improve their long-term health.

New research would suggest however this isn’t the case at all and it is in fact vanity/self-preservation motivations that are the reasons behind people kicking the deadly habit into touch rather than the worry of a premature death.  Indeed, there still remains an estimated 10 million Brits who are addicted to smoking, which should not be the case when there is smoking cessation medication available such as Champix that can help them quit for good, saving potentially thousands of pounds a year and adding years onto their life.

Despite the government’s best efforts to get people to stop smoking via steep increases in cigarette taxation and increasingly more graphic warnings and images being plastered on cigarette packets, for men it is the worry of impotency and a loss of sex drive that urges them to quit smoking.  Whilst it would seem women are concerned about cigarettes accelerating the aging process and giving them wrinkles, laugh lines and dreaded ‘crow’s feet’.

Stirling University’s Brian Williams, professor of Behavioural & Health Services Research, commented on his team’s research, saying: “Eight out of ten smokers want to quit. Targeting groups with images of issues that relate directly to their own concerns can have most effect. If we know one brand has a certain market – among say women – it would allow us to design images that were tailored to that particular demographic, say on looks or fertility. It is what advertisers do as well.”

Professor Williams and colleagues scrutinised answers given from around 19,000 people who completed a UK-wide online survey about their thoughts/reactions to graphic images printed on cigarette packaging.

It was found that there were three particular images that struck a chord with respondents due to their shock factor. A neck tumour image was found to be the most powerful, with 80% admitting this had affected them. Second was diseased teeth at 77%, and diseased lungs was third most powerful, with 72% saying this had upset them.

Interestingly, researchers observed that particular images seemed to have a bigger impact on certain age and gender groups differently than others.

For instance, the study found that female smokers were considerably more affected by all three images regarding aging in comparison to male counterparts. Images related to pregnancy and children also had a bigger impact on women compared to the male smokers.

The study report added: “Men were consistently more affected by the images relating to sexual performance/impotence. Images relating to heart and lung disease as a consequence of smoking were most effective amongst over-50s. Students and professionals were more affected by cosmetic issues than those who were unemployed or retired, possibly due to the impact of damage to their appearance caused by smoking. Most of the images relating to fertility, impotence and pregnancy > had a significantly greater effect on the 16-39 age group. The closer the characteristics of both the narrative and visual > forms match those of the viewer the greater the likely impact on risk representations.”

The report concluded: “This suggests that, as specific images have a more persuasive effect on particular groups, it may be worth considering a targeted approach to anti-smoking messages, placing appropriate images on brands known to be purchased by young, adult and older smokers.”

Professor Williams believes that smokers may not quit with shock tactics alone. He said: “What we are missing at the moment is images and messages on cigarette packets that encourage people to take the next step; that it is possible to give up.”

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