Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Business


Management & Marketing

First Advisor

Mr. Maurice Murphy


The WHO (2008) report states that although tobacco deaths rarely make headlines, tobacco kills one person globally every six seconds. Tobacco kills a third to a half of all people who use it, on average 15 years prematurely. Today tobacco use causes 1 in 10 deaths among adults worldwide - more than 5 million people a year (Murray and Lopez, 2006). The Irish Office of Tobacco Control’s research has confirmed that initiation into smoking is largely a childhood phenomenon. More than 75% of all smokers in Ireland started to smoke before they reached the age of 18 (HBSC Ireland, 2006).

This research set out to analyse the use of social marketing messages in an anti-tobacco context, with specific reference to Irish female adolescents. The target group was teenage girls, in the age category of 15-16 years. These girls assessed various anti-smoking messages in focus groups and reactions were gauged. In-depth interviews were also conducted with leading anti-tobacco campaigners. Focus groups revealed that physical threat appeals are more effective than social threat appeals as participants felt that the advertisements increased their knowledge about the dangers of tobacco, increased their perceived risk and responsibility and led to a decrease in the acceptability of smoking.

Public service announcements should contain physical threat appeals which deal with the physical, visual appearance of the smoker as this study has highlighted that these were the most effective, at potentially initiating behaviour change among this target group. Images of rotting lungs and clogged arteries were less effective as a deterrent for smoking for this age group. This age group valued their appearance and thus images of rotting gums, yellowing teeth and bad skin as a result of smoking were more effective at prevention efforts. Packaging on the cigarettes was found to be a key promotional vehicle for health messages. Policy makers are increasingly valuing packaging by placing more graphic images on packets or avoiding all brand references and opting for plain packaging. An integrated marketing campaign should be initiated to reinforce this message, with images on packets of cigarettes of the physical, facial effects of smoking. Price increases do not necessarily reduce demand among this age group as adolescents share their cigarettes. The key role of addiction as an agent that prevents adolescents from quitting smoking needs to be acknowledged as a formidable force for policy makers. Also key to this is the awareness of how quickly the addiction sets in.

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