Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Preventing the Uptake of Smoking by Children – Response from NICE

I’ve just had the response from NICE to our submission to their consultation on the guidance they’re doing on preventing the uptake of smoking by children.

We said:

The Drug Education Forum believes that public health campaigns are more effective when carried out in conjunction with effective education campaigns.

We understand the reason that educational interventions were not included in the scope of this guidance, however we hope that it will be made clear that there should be an expectation that public health campaigns aimed at children should run alongside educational interventions. In our view this should mean that those that develop public health campaigns should produce materials and resources that are available to schools to use in PSHE lessons.

NICE replied:

Smoking education in schools is the subject of other NICE guidance currently in development, see http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/index.jsp?action=byID&o=11976

This guidance emphasizes the importance of a comprehensive strategy for tackling tobacco use.

We said:

“be informed by research that identifies and understands the target audiences”


“include advertisements that elicit an emotional reaction (for example, fear)”

The Drug Education Forum is well aware of young people’s often stated claim that they would find harder messages around drugs (including tobacco) would have a deterrent effect on their use. However, there is no evidence, we are aware of, for campaigns carried out in this way leading to changes in children’s behaviour.

There does seem to be some evidence (see Boomerang Ads from Drug and Alcohol Findings 2005) that harder messages can have the unintended consequence of making drugs more attractive to young people.

The Drug Education Forum does not believe that fear is the most effective reaction to be trying to achieve with public health campaigns aimed at children. To support this view we would cite the findings in the review of effectiveness carried out to inform this guidance, which says:

“A UK-based (++)6 qualitative study found that social norms messages were more effective than fear messages at encouraging more committed smokers to consider their smoking behaviours and reinforcing awareness of the dangers of smoking in less committed smokers.” [page 6]

NICE will also want to make it clear that where campaigns are targeted at children and young people they need to be in line with the Advertising Standards Authority guidance. We would particularly point to CAP Code clauses 9.1 and 9.2 (Fear and distress) and 47.2 (Children), and CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 7.3.6 (Children – Distress).

They replied:

Thank you for this considered response. There is published evidence which indicates that vivid communications are successful with young people. This evidence can be found in the review of the mass media campaigns available on the NICE website at: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/index.jsp?action=folder&o=40004

Thank you.

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Filed under: NICE, tobacco, ,

4 Responses

  1. […] advertising, tobaccoTags: Preventing smoking in children: Review of effectiveness Following up on what NICE said in their response to the Forum’s submission on preventing young people from taking up smoking […]

  2. […] guidance on public health messages for young people around tobacco should include ones that might elicit fear (though this isn’t without […]

  3. […] of the things I found interesting was that (in contrast to what NICE believe is effective in mass media campaigns) fear based approaches are seen as a barrier to providing […]

  4. […] may remember that when NICE looked at this issue they decided that “vivid” communications which elicit fear was evidenced enough for […]

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