To expose smokers to happy memories from the past

A study published in Communication Research Reports [1] shows that anti-smoking campaigns should benefit from smokers’ positive memories to help them quit the deadly habit. This research was carried out at Michigan State University by Syed Hussain and Maria Lapinski from the School of Journalism and the Department of Communication, respectively.

The two researchers analyzed the reactions of smokers aged of 18 to 39 exposed to messages evokating happy memories from the past with sentences like “I remember when I was a boy”, “I miss the simplicity of life”, “I miss all the game we played”.

The movie ends when the narrator remembers when he was offered smoking and incites participants to dial the quit line number 311.

Maria Lapinski, professor at the Department of Communication, who is a specialist of public health issues in communication, emphasizes the efficiency of such campaigns that involve vapers at a higher level than scaremongering ones. The researcher who recalls that their study is the first to demonstrate the power of nostalgic messages to promote pro-social behaviors, declares “We know that policy and environmental changes have an influence on smoking and this study indicates persuasive messages can influence smoking attitudes.

Avoiding guilt-creating messages

Canadian neutral packagings

A lot of no-smoking messages are centered around fear, disgust and guilt”, says Syed Hussain in reference to the warnings that neutral packaging includes. The PhD candidate in Journalism adds “But smokers often don’t buy the messages and instead feel badly about themselves and the person who is trying to scare them”.

In the USA, smoking prevalence has decreased over the last few years but there remain 15% of adults who stick up to combustible cigarettes.

Throat hit and pleasure or nostalgia?

It is interesting to compare the conclusion of this work to spontaneous communication that set up in the vaping community. “Vapers love to speak about their practice and to give advices” explains Sarah in the British short movie The Switch. She advises to smokers who are interested in e-cigarette to contact them to increase their chances.

Short movies about vaping by the NNA and NCSCT

Vapers’ empathy for smokers who start vaping also appears on social media, forums where they are warmly welcome. They receive a positive discourse that emphasizes pleasure to accompany their smoking cessation. And more importantly, the message avoids cupabilizing smokers who have failed before.

Positive messaging has been initiated by vapers and many professionals – waiting for nostalgia – in the domain of smoking cessation to empower smokers with the benefits of quitting. With neutral packaging, some regret that positive messages to encourage vaping be forbidden for reasons of “propaganda”. A term that, between us, deserves a better definition of the limits.

[1] Hussain, S. A., & Lapinski, M. K. (2017). Nostalgic Emotional Appeals for Smoking Prevention. Communication Research Reports, 34(1), 48-57.


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7 years ago

I played in the mud without having to be disinfected from head to toe afterwards; just some soap and water cleaned me and I survived. I climbed trees, fell out, road a bike, fell off without knee and elbow protectors and without wearing a helmet and survived. I listened to stories my granddad told me filling up op the room with the sweet smell of his pipe and survived as well. Yes, I grew up in a post war world where psychotics who were hysterically scared and who did create a panic over every little thing, were laughed at not praised… I still do and that seems to be the basis for that initial “Vapers’ empathy for smokers”: those scaremongers who are even afraid of a fruit fly killing them do not deserve to be taken too serious. So now since nothing else seems to be working: use the nostalgia for a world not dominated by scaremongers to do some more scaremongering. They still do not get it, do they?