Objective: To evaluate systematically the effectiveness of six advertising strategies (two message strategies presented in three different contexts) designed to promote smoking cessation by addressing smokers' misperceptions about Light cigarettes.
Design: Smokers viewed one of six, 30 second test television concept advertisements, which varied by message (one emphasising how the sensory effects of Lights can be deceptive, the other describing the effects of vent blocking) and by ad context (non-commercial public service announcement (PSA), promotion of unbranded nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), or promotion of branded NRT). The effectiveness of each advertisement was determined using a validated advertising testing system in which ads were viewed in the context of reviewing a pilot television programme. Response to ads is assessed through shifts in subject choices of products offered as prizes before and after viewing the test advertisements. Included among the possible prizes were cigarettes and various pharmacotherapies for smoking cessation.
Subjects: Daily smokers (n = 1890) of Regular (34%), Light (47%), and Ultra Light (19%) cigarettes recruited from eight US cities.
Main outcomes measures: The primary outcome of interest was the shift away from cigarettes as the selected prize following exposure to the test advertisements. Secondary outcomes of interest included movement away from Light cigarettes and movement towards assisted quitting products.
Results: Smokers who saw the advertisement emphasising the sensory characteristics of Light cigarettes were more likely than subjects who saw the advertisement emphasising the effect of vent blocking to move away from cigarettes (OR = 1.97, 95% confidence interval CI 1.25 to 3.09; chi(2)(1) = 8.69, p = 0.003). Similarly, subjects who saw the advertisement framed as a PSA, rather than as a promotion for either a branded or unbranded NRT product, were also somewhat more likely to move away from cigarettes (OR = 1.51, 95% CI 0.94 to 2.40; chi(2)(1) = 2.97, p = 0.085). The effect was observed regardless of sex, age, or type of cigarette smoked.
Conclusions: Addressing smokers' sensory perceptions of Light cigarettes and presenting this information in an impartial way is likely to be an effective communication strategy for counter-marketing Light cigarettes.