Smoking Health Warnings versus Negative Social Consequences
Nicotine is a substance that affects the brain in a pleasurable and rewarding manner, and, whose regular, continued use can lead to addiction. It is the brain that causes this addiction to take hold, and I feel, it must be the brain to which appeals are made to most effectively and successfully combat that addiction. The most compelling appeals are not warnings of long-run negative health consequences, but, rather visceral, emotionally-based appeals (i.e. warnings), that strike at fundamental, instinctual drives that all people, including young people, have hard-wired into their brains. Those appeals deal with the negative social consequences of smoking, not with more factually-based, intellectual appeals to a smoker's judgment. After-all, the initial impetus to start smoking is not to satisfy a physical need or craving, but, a psycho-social need and, it is psycho-socially based appeals that will most effectively motivate a smoker, especially a young person, to quit smoking.
Sadly, there is one area of appeals, especially to today's youth, that is very underutilized and under-represented in governmental efforts to combat drug abuse. By drugs, I am including the use of tobacco products, especially cigarettes. Most of the negative warnings regarding smoking involve the use of negative health-related concerns. But, these concerns, especially for young people, are by their nature very long-term, very uncertain, somewhat vague, somewhat nebulous and unreal to a vibrant, energetic young person to whom mortality is a very unreal and distant notion. Far more compelling, are appeals based on the highly negative consequences of smoking on the smoker's social acceptability, social status and standing. Promoting the highly negative impact of smoking on the smoker's breath, hair, skin, yellowing of the teeth, stench on the clothes, "smelling-up" the hair, taste, enjoyment of food and turning-off potential romantic targets is far more compelling. These very real, and readily understood consequences of smoking, makes the smoker much less attractive to the opposite sex, reducing a chance to find a long-run partner or a short-run hook-up. These compelling threats relate to vital concerns of all smokers, and again, especially to younger smokers, and may be much more fundamentally motivating than more intellectually-based appeals.