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Centre for Behavioural
Research in Cancer

Identifying levels and types of emotion that maximise effectiveness of anti-smoking ads, especially in low socio-economic smokers

This study measured past-month quit attempts and other outcomes in an ongoing weekly cross-sectional survey of 7,683 smokers and past year quitters in the state of Victoria aged 18 to 59 years from January 2012 to November 2015.  Level of exposure to different types of anti-tobacco ads was obtained by using Target Audience Ratings points data. Each anti-tobacco ad was assigned scores to reflect the predominant type and level of evoked emotion, based on a dedicated series of prior ad rating studies conducted by the team.  Each person in the cross-sectional survey was assigned aggregated scores of ad-evoked emotions according to the level and timing of their exposure to different ads.  The study found that:

  • Ads that predominantly evoked fear or multiple negative emotions (Fear, Guilt, Sadness) were most likely to increase ad recall, quitting urgency, confidence to quit, quit-help-seeking and quit attempts across lower and higher socio-economic status (SES) smokers. Exposure to hope-evoking ads (e.g., that provide tips and advice to quit) did not increase confidence or help-seeking among people who smoke, and enhanced the effects of fear-evoking ads on quit attempts among those of higher SES.
  • Exposure to fear-evoking tobacco control campaigns increased smokers’ perceptions of family and friends’ disapproval of their smoking, and this was consistent across age and SES. Advertisement exposure was not associated with feeling embarrassed about disclosing smoking status to others. 
  • Exposure to effective campaign messages at least four times per month per person is required to motivate greater quit attempts among those living in lower SES areas and decrease disparities. Low or no funding (equivalent of <2 exposures per person per month) increases disparities, while moderate funding (equivalent of 2 to 3 exposures per person per month) maintains disparities.  

CBRC staff

Prof Sarah Durkin, Prof Melanie Wakefield, Megan Bayly, Dr Emily Brennan, Dr Danielle Schoenaker


Dr Lois Biener (University of Massachusetts, Boston USA), Quit Victoria, Media and Communications team (Prevention Division, Cancer Council Victoria)


NHMRC Partnership Grant (1016419) with VicHealth, Quit Victoria (which is funded by VicHealth and the Victorian Department of Health), Cancer Council Victoria


2011 - 2020