Mass media and social marketing campaigns aim to reduce the number of people who smoke by changing attitudes, beliefs and intentions surrounding tobacco use. Mass media campaigns take a traditional marketing approach to this aim, treating the desire to be smoke-free as a product to be sold. In contrast, social marketing uses knowledge of specific community barriers to develop more targeted marketing approaches.
Both approaches use education about the negative consequences of smoking and the benefits of not smoking for two purposes:
It is thought these campaigns help to prevent smoking by changing people’s expectations toward smoking, so that tobacco use is no longer accepted as the ‘usual, cool or necessary thing to do.’
A 2021 publication from the Mayi Kuwayu study showed that education provided by the TIS program has changed awareness and understanding of the impact of smoking on long term health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults. We know that negative attitudes towards smoking are an important precursor to smoking behaviour change. Anti-smoking attitudes are more likely to lead to quit attempts, and to successful long term smoke free living.
There is evidence that both mass media and social marketing campaigns can help prevent smoking from starting, encourage people to stop smoking, and prevent relapse among recent quitters by reminding them about why they chose to stop smoking. However one of the biggest effects is in relation to promoting access to cessation support services such as Quitline, counselling and other health professionals. Developing capacity to support people who are ready to quit – by taking the systems approach described under Planning, is therefore essential if programs are to be sustainable.
A campaign’s impact is influenced by:
The relevance of the message has been found to be important for audience engagement. The context, characters and role models used in advertising or community activities must seem believable, if people who smoke are to connect to them. When a campaign does not relate to how people see themselves, they find it hard to become interested in the content. While there is some evidence that mass media campaigns do influence attitudes and beliefs of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders in regard to smoking, more specific local messages tailored for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seem to be most effective. Evidence from the
project also supports the importance of using targeted advertising.
The Australian Government’s Don’t Make Smokes Your Story campaign is a good example of how advertising and community-based activities can work together to encourage behaviour change among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who smoke. You can adapt and use these materials and resources for your own activities.
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