Massachusetts Ex-Smokers Rated Negative Ads as Most Effective

From February 1996 to August 1998, Lois Biener, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts at Boston Center for Survey Research examined the reactions of adult residents in Massachusetts to the Massachusetts Tobacco Control Program.

Launched in 1993, the program included a media campaign, worksite initiatives and other efforts to improve the public health of residents by reducing death and disability from tobacco use. Researchers resurveyed 1,544 adults who had participated in the 1993 Massachusetts Tobacco Survey, the baseline assessment for the program.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP).

Key Findings

  • Non-smokers and those who quit smoking rated anti-tobacco advertisements that elicited strong negative emotions (e.g., those that were sad or frightening) as most effective.
  • All respondent groups (smokers, non-smokers and quitters) rated anti-tobacco advertisements scoring high on positive emotions (e.g., those that were humorous or entertaining) as ineffective.
  • Many smokers working in places with "smokefree" policies reported people smoking in the workplace and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. As a result, workplace smoking policies, in general, had no effect on smoking cessation among workers since these policies are often not enforced.
  • Continuous employment in workplaces that enforce smoking bans (as evidenced by only minimal exposure to environmental tobacco smoke) is associated with smoking cessation. Smokers who worked continuously in such workplaces between baseline and follow-up were seven times more likely to have quit smoking than smokers continuously employed in workplaces with higher levels of exposure.