Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

What impacts on young people’s smoking?

The Cumberland News carries a story about a film going into primary schools in Cumbria:

John Miller’s film may become part of the National Curriculum if it is as successful as his presentations in Cumbrian schools.

He started smoking at the age of seven and had to have a tracheotomy after a habit which lasted 46 years.

His graphic talk is aimed at shocking children away from the lure of cigarettes, leave a lasting impression among nine to 11-year-olds in and around his hometown of Aspatria.

Apparently the film has been sent to the DCSF and will be available for download from the University of Cumbria’s website as their media department helped make it.

What they might not have done is look at the evidence for “vivid communications” which isn’t perhaps as strong as the makers, teachers (or children) suspect it will be.  To remind ourselves, the review for NICE found UK research which says:

In terms of fear appeals ads, interviewees did not see themselves as targets of these messages and, as a consequence, did not feel it necessary to respond to these threats. In terms of social norms ads, many interviewees said that the advertisements spoke to them at their level and were realistic in terms of social pressure without preaching or telling them what to do.

Meanwhile Cancer Research UK point to some new research they commissioned from the University of Stirling, which they say:

reveal that the more cigarette brands young people can name, the more likely they are to smoke. In fact, for every cigarette brand a young person can recall having seen at the point of sale their chance of smoking increases by 35 per cent.

Cancer UK are calling on the government regulate where tobacco products are displayed (or rather they’d like them not to be displayed) in shops.

What this research from the USA seems to show is that it may also be a good idea to use school drug education lessons to help young people understand what advertising may be doing to their behaviour.  The authors of the study say:

Smoking media literacy [SML] can be measured with excellent reliability and concurrent criterion validity. Given the independent association between SML and smoking, media literacy may be a promising tool for future tobacco control interventions.

What I do think is that this approach, of empowering children and young people, seems more likely to have long term effects than shocking videos, however well intentioned they are.

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Filed under: advertising, tobacco

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