Friday, September 22, 2006

To Smoke And How Not To Smoke

Of late Anti-Smoking lobbies in India are gathering momentum. They are increasingly getting vocal in their cause of tobacco eradication. Now with the support of the Government their mandate is going to get at least some recognition. Add to this some film celebrity, it sure is going to get some attention.

The above advertisement and news items do not effectively appeal. There is no reason why smokers including me do not get influenced by it, even though all accept the dangerous side effect of smoking (both active and passive). Yet again why does all the social marketing done against it, fails?

Probably, one of the reasons is that we consider smokers as one. The smoking class can be divided into three age groups basically, which are Adolescents (age 13 - 15 years), Teens and Young (age 15 - 30 years) and Mature (age 30 and above). For every category there are different reasons for taking up smoking and there would be different reasons / motivations for quitting cigarettes

Adolescents take up smoking primarily they get inspired by others around them who smoke, it primarily is the curiosity that induces an adolescent to smoke. But for a teenager or a person in the age group up to it actually is peer pressure, work pressure, to show off or just a new found expression of financial independence. For the Mature category, which by now is so inured to nicotine that it accepts it as a way of life.

We have different motivations for smoking and hence we need different enablers to induce quitting. Different strategies are used to do this; all are used broadly across the categories. The foremost among them is the FEAR FACTOR which primarily works best on an Adolescent as he / she is more prone to get influenced without questioning. In the case of a young person, fear will not work as he / she is predisposed to ignore all such suggestions about the ill effects of smoking. What works best here is PERSUASION. The mature group has emotional issues attached to it, it is his / her family, that will act as the best persuader to quit, but this also can be questioned in terms of appeal as the smoker has now hardened enough to ignore such appellations. But still, it is only in this age that EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENTS are the most and it is only the emotional persuasions (like the fate of the family) that can affect the behaviour.

The above advertisement will appeal only to the young class and it would not have any affect on the other two categories given the message content.

Given so much disparity in the audience, how do we induce the desire to quit?

We can use the FEEL GOOD FACTOR, why cannot we portray a person who does not smoke and is healthy for his / her age. All the smokers recognise the bad effects and they also recognise the benefits of not smoking. Then why not we use positive persuasion and reaffirm it in the minds of the people. At least this would ensure that people do not ignore the crux of the message.

A person takes up smoking because he / she willed to and in many cases of people who left smoking it was their desire to quit that induced a positive action. I believe we should let people decide what is good for them and accordingly act. And we can enforce this decision making process by spreading the positives of not smoking and not the other way around.

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