Turning tables on attitudes to smoking

Can the colour of a cigarette stick or even the smoke that is exhaled influence whether someone chooses to be a smoker or not?

This is one of the issues to be presented at this month’s International Social Marketing Conference (ISM 2012) in Brisbane, to be hosted by Griffith University at South Bank.

More than 60 research papers from 17 countries will be presented across two days on June 28-29 covering a range of social issues varying from risky drinking among young women to banning the sale of bottled water, from the reporting of domestic violence to obesity and the advertisement of fruit.

A presentation by Janet Hoek, Professor of Marketing at New Zealand’s University of Otago, on “dissuasive cigarette sticks” is likely to prompt refreshed debate on the influence of packaging on smoking.

“This research is particularly timely as it follows Australia’s lead on plain cigarette packaging,” Associate Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele (pictured) from the Griffith Business School says.

“Social marketing examines the effectiveness of social marketing in making smokers see cigarettes as a social embarrassment rather than a social accessory.”

Associate Professor Rundle-Thiele, who will chair ISM 2012, says social marketing should not be confused with social media and other forms of advertising.

“It is the application of commercial marketing to change behaviours. We have known for some time that commercial marketing is very effective in getting us to buy a new golf club or pair of shoes. Commercial marketers have bigger, faster, improved products to market.

“Social marketers, on the other hand, offer an alternative lifestyle or behaviour, often not as instantly appealing to their target audience.”

During her research Professor Hoek surveyed female smokers aged 18 to 24, concluding that attractive, cool cigarette sticks met a social need among smokers.

Those surveyed thought the dissuasive sticks would attract unwanted attention, highlight their status as smokers, and reinforce negative opinions of smoking.

Removing the associated imagery would relegate cigarettes to an embarrassing item that smokers are reluctant to display publically.

Dissuasive colours tested during research prompted negative reactions, as smokers were reminded of phlegm, tar, vomit and poison.

Addicts’ reliance on nicotine would override effect of dissuasive sticks. This highlighted the importance of varied tobacco control measures to reach and influence different smoker sub-groups, the study showed.

ISM 2012 will also include a presentation from California’s Jeffrey Jordan who demonstrates how tobacco industry marketing can be turned on its head and counter-engineered to generate a tobacco-free Hipster lifestyle in clubs frequented by young adults.

For further information on ISM 2012, go to www.aasm.org.au/ism2012.