Smoking Ads: Another Example of Unintended Effects


It turns out that anti-smoking ads may actually increase smoking.

Tobacco company-sponsored anti-smoking advertising aimed at youths not only has no negative effect on teen smoking, it may actually encourage youngsters to smoke, according to a study co-authored by an Oregon State University researcher.

The researchers are blaming the tobacco companies, but I think the larger problem here is that the government didn't consider unintended consequences and second order effects. Let me beat a dead horse and say – incentives matter. Laws and regulation never change people's attitudes. The lesson for you business is that you can't just institute new procedures and think that fixes everything.

  • Excuse my cynicism here, but I just think this explains why the tobacco companies have no problem promoting “no smoking” campaigns – because they won’t work!

  • I’m sure this is true: I only started smoking because everyone told me not to. All those anti-smoking campaigns just teach teens “smoke if you want to be rebellious”.

    If they gave every 13 year old a free packet of cigarettes and forced them to smoke them, *that* might work as an anti-smoking campaign.

  • Biddy is absolutely right and why anti-smoking campaigns don’t work. Smoking has always been the rebellious thing to do, so the ads just make it more enticing. Also the shock ads of showing statistics on death rates doesn’t help dissuade a teen who figures that’s a long time from now anyway (death is what happens to old people).