Suggesting tobacco industry executives are dishonest and will go to any lengths to hook new smokers is the most effective way of persuading people to stop buying cigarettes.
The findings, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, follow claims that British American Tobacco misrepresented the findings of a World Health Organisation study by suggesting it showed no increased risk of cancer from passive smoking.
Yesterday, Tessa Jowell, the public health minister, rounded on the industry and rejected its claim that passive smoking was safe. Speaking at a launch for tomorrow's No Smoking Day, Ms Jowell said: "BAT have a vested interest in keeping people smoking. They have to replace the 120,000 people a year who die from smoking with new customers. As the authors of the study made clear, it was grossly misrepresented by the tobacco industry who had their own particular spin to put on it."
Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, who reviewed studies of the effectiveness of anti-smoking advertising, say the image of the tobacco industry in the public mind is key to the continued legitimacy of smoking.
They say: "The type and target of anti-tobacco advertising messages matter. Its strategy denormalises smoking and delegitimises the tobacco industry. By showing to what lengths the industry will go to recruit and keep new smokers, these advertisements have sparked interest in smoking and opened people's minds to other anti-tobacco messages."
An anti-smoking campaign run in California which denigrated the tobacco industry led to a 12.2 per cent drop in smoking in the 12 months from April 1990 to March 1991. The researchers say the campaign directly influenced 33,000 smokers who gave up and contributed to the decision to quit made by a further 173,000. They say that advertisements which focus on health effects of smoking, or suggest it can lead to romantic rejection, have little impact.
t The health service is doing too little to help people stop smoking, the NHS Centre for Reviews and Dissemination at the University of York says.
The centre, set up with government funding to advise on best clinical practice, says doctors and other health professionals should systematically identify patients who smoke and urge them to stop.
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