Smokers are more likely to quit because of wrinkles and impotency than the threat of developing cancer, new research shows. Despite smoking's many health risks, which include developing cancer or heart disease, the risk of death just isn't as scary as crow's feet or a low sex drive.
Stirling University's Brian Williams, professor of Behavioural & Health Services Research, said, "Eight out of ten smokers want to quit. Targeting groups with images of issues that relate directly to their own concerns can have the most effect."
Experts hope the findings will help create more effective packaging to deter smokers, as they explore new marketing campaigns. In the study, it was the women who were most afraid of wrinkles, and men most affected by the thought of losing sexual stamina.
"If we know one brand has a certain market among, say women, it would allow us to design images that were tailored to that particular demographic, say on looks or fertility. It is what advertisers do as well," Williams said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19 percent of adults 18 years and older currently smoke cigarettes. Over 21 percent are men and almost 17 percent are women.
In the study, Williams and researchers from St. Andrews University analyzed over 19,000 responses from a UK-wide online study, which surveyed reactions to packaging. The participants then responded to the images depending upon how powerful the shock message was rated. An image of a neck tumor was found to be the most powerful, with 80 percent of participants' feedback saying it affected them. Diseased teeth images came in second with 77 percent, and diseased lungs came in third with 72 percent. However, researchers found that many images appeared to affect certain age and gender groups differently.
The images shocked their participants, but the study found female smokers were significantly more affected than men by all three images connected to signs of aging. Women were also significantly affected by all the images associated with pregnancy and children, more than men were.
While women found their threatened beauty a good reason to quit, men were most affected by the images related to sexual performance and impotence.
According to findings by the American Heart Association, men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes daily had a 60 percent higher risk of erectile dysfunction, compared to men who have never smoked. Men with a history of smoking or who currently smoke are 30 percent more likely to suffer from impotence.
What's more, images related to heart and lung disease most affected those over the age of 50, while images related to cosmetic issues affected students and professionals more than those who were unemployed or retired.
A recent CDC study found that the U.S. Smoking rate dropped to 18 percent, but health officials weren't able to find a conclusive reason for the drop, which could have been anything from graphic photos and circulated horror stories to other tactics of the CDC to fear-monger the smoking community.
And there's good reason for fear; smoking is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancers. Lung cancer is a deadly diagnosis in the U.S.; in fact, more people die of lung cancer in the U.S. than any other type of cancer, which is true for both men and women. In 2011, there were 205,974 people diagnosed with lung cancer, and out of those people, a staggering 158,081 actually died.
The researchers are recommending the use of their new findings to have a more persuasive effect on particular groups, and better design anti-smoking messages related to popular brands. By placing appropriate images on brands known to be purchased men and women of different age groups, the greater impact could be relayed.
"What we are missing at the moment is images and messages on cigarette packages that encourage people to take the nect step, that it is possible to give up," Williams said.