The research found the influence of opinion leaders, packaging measures and positive feelings associated with successfully quitting had the strongest impact on the desire and intention to stop smoking, while restrictions had the opposite effect.
Dr Christopher White, from RMIT’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing, said the findings had implications for anti-smoking campaigns that aimed to target young people.
“We know from established research that influencing desire and intention is crucial when aiming for behaviour change,” Dr White said.
“Our analysis showed measures such as smoking restrictions in the workplace and in public places, and ongoing increases to the price of cigarettes, actually significantly weakened the desire to quit.
“It’s not clear why these measures have this effect, though perhaps they are seen as heavy-handed and are evoking resistance and defiance among young people.
“While these restrictions are unlikely to be removed or reduced, it is worth considering how much further they should be promoted, when far more effective options exist in the effort to influence young people towards quitting for good.”
The study surveyed 126 smokers aged 18-24 on the impact of a variety of government measures, with an advanced statistical technique known as “factor analysis” used to identify meaningful themes in the data.
The analysis of the strength of influence found packaging measures (.26) and the opinion of someone important in the person’s life (.26) had the strongest impact on desire and intention to quit, closely followed by positive anticipated emotions (.25). Restrictive measures received the only negative score (-.19).
“While shock and fear campaigns have their place, these findings suggest they should be accompanied by advertisements that emphasise encouraging messages and focus on the positive feelings and outcomes that influential people have experienced after quitting,” Dr White said.
Dr White supervised the study, which will be submitted for publication, and was conducted as part of a Bachelor of Business (Honours) thesis by Harrison Thomas.