Objectives: We used a validated copy test method to examine the effectiveness of 8 types of antismoking advertisements representing health, counterindustry, and industry approaches. We tested the hypothesis that health ads about tobacco victims can lower most adolescents' intent to smoke if the ads elicit disgust and anti-industry feelings rather than fear. We hypothesized null effects for adolescents with conduct disorder because of their abnormally low empathy.
Methods: Ninth-grade students from 8 California public schools (n=1725) were randomly assigned to view 1 of 9 videotapes containing a TV show with ads that included either a set of antismoking ads or a set of control ads. Participants completed baseline measures assessing personality traits and postexposure measures assessing smoking intent, feelings, beliefs, and ad evaluations.
Results: Ads focusing on young victims suffering from serious tobacco-related diseases elicited disgust, enhanced anti-industry motivation, and reduced intent to smoke among all but conduct-disordered adolescents. Counterindustry and industry ads did not significantly lower smoking intention.
Conclusions: Sponsors of tobacco use prevention ad campaigns should consider using ads showing tobacco-related disease and suffering, not just counterindustry ads. Ads should be copy tested before airing.