Cigarette advertising and children's smoking: why Reg was withdrawn

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.309.6959.933 (Published 8 October 1994)
Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:933

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  1. G B Hastings,
  2. H Ryan,
  3. P Teer,
  4. A M MacKintosh
  1. Centre for Social Marketing, University of Stratchclyde, Glasgow G4 0RQ Health Education Authority, Hamilton House, London WC1H 9TX
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Hastings.

    Abstract

    Objective: To examine the appeal of the Embassy Regal “Reg” campaign to young people.

    Design: Three quantitative surveys and one piece of qualitative research: (a) self completion questionnaire administered in classrooms, (b) questionnaire led interviews with children, (c) questionnaire led interviews with adults, and (d) group discussions with children and adults.

    Settings: (a) Secondary and middle schools in England; (b) north of England, Scotland, and Wales; (c) north of England, Scotland, and Wales; and (d) Glasgow.

    Subjects: (a) 5451 schoolchildren aged 11-15 recruited by stratified random sampling; (b) 437 children aged 5-10 recruited by quota sampling; (c) 814 adults aged 15-65 recruited by quota sampling; and (d) 12 groups of children aged 10-15, three groups of adults aged 18-24, and three groups of adults aged 35-55.

    Results: Children were familiar with cigarette advertising and in particular the Reg campaign. Although younger children struggled to understand the creative content of the adverts, older and smoking children could understand and appreciate the humour. They considered Reg to be amusing and could relate to the type of joke used in the advert. In addition Reg's flippant attitude towards serious issues appealed to the children. While adults aged 18-24 understood the campaign they did not identify with it, and 35-55 year olds (the campaign's supposed target) were unappreciative of the campaign.

    Conclusions: The Reg campaign was getting through to children more effectively than it was to adults and held most appeal for teenagers, particularly 14-15 year old smokers. It clearly contravened the code governing tobacco advertising, which states that advertising must not appeal to children more than it does to adults, and it may have had a direct impact on teenage smoking. In view of these findings the Advertising Standards Authority's decision to withdraw the Reg campaign seems appropriate.

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