The content of cigarette counter-advertising: are perceived functions of smoking addressed?

J Health Commun. 2009 Oct-Nov;14(7):658-73. doi: 10.1080/10810730903204262.


Media campaigns can be an effective tool in reducing adolescent smoking. To better understand the types of ads that have been used in campaigns in the United States, a content analysis was conducted of ads available at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Media Campaign Resource Center (MCRC; Waves 1 through 7). A total of 487 ads were coded. Ads were coded for target audience, primary theme present in the ad, and sensation value-production techniques that have been demonstrated to attract attention and increase arousal. Primary themes extended earlier studies by focusing on the perceived functions of smoking (weight lose, stress management, controlling negative affect) as well as the traditional themes of industry attack, the health consequences of smoking, secondhand smoke, quitting, and the social image of smokers. A majority of ads were rated as having moderate sensation value, and ads targeted at teens and children were, on the average, higher in sensation value than those targeting general audiences. Changes across time suggest that campaigns are focusing more on adolescent smoking and relying more on attacking the tobacco industry. Research indicates that the functions of stress relief, mood regulation, and weight loss are strong reasons for initiating and continuing to smoke cigarettes; however, none of the 487 ads addressed these functional themes. Implications for developing campaigns that more closely relate to the functions of smoking are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Advertising*
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Persuasive Communication*
  • Smoking Prevention*
  • United States