Anti-smoking campaigns that emphasise the negative effects that smoking can have on appearance are likely to be a more powerful disincentive than those focusing on health. This is according to psychologist Professor Sarah Grogan of Staffordshire University whose study is published in the British Journal of Health Psychology
The recent study found that young adult smokers still believe that smoking makes them look sophisticated, mature and “cool”. However smokers also recognised the negative impact of smoking on their physical attractiveness and see this as a good reason to quit – although not until they actually see signs of wear and tear.
87 smokers and non-smokers aged between 17 and 24 took part in the study which was conducted through a number of focus groups
The smokers discussed the effects of smoking on skin, teeth, hair and weight and how they made sense of engaging in such a behaviour. The non-smokers also discussed a potential link between appearance and smoking and the reasons why they weren’t tempted to take up the habit.
Findings showed that male and female smokers were concerned about the impact of smoking on their appearance, but would quit only if skin ageing, wrinkling or other negative effects on appearance became noticeable – believing it only happened to older smokers. Non-smokers expressed concern about the impact on skin and teeth if they started smoking.
Professor Grogan said: “Emphasising the fact that skin damage caused by smoking may not be visible to the naked eye but is nonetheless progressing, might be an effective way to counter young smokers’ beliefs.”
“Campaigns that emphasise the negative effects that smoking can have on appearance are likely to be a more powerful disincentive than those that focus on the impact of smoking on health.”
Professor Grogan said: “Young adults have the highest rates of smoking in the US and the UK yet they are also concerned with their physical appearance. The findings of this study will inform anti-smoking campaigns targeted at young people.”
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