States objective to measure attitude toward smoking among smokers and nonsmokers, attitude and awareness of smoking regulations and effect on smokers and nonsmokers, reactions to possible future restrictions and effect of anti-smoking commercials on smokers and nonsmokers. Details survey methodology. Concludes that smoking and nonsmoking voters have equally strong but diametrically opposed viewpoints and that the latter's viewpoints are supported by several external factors, the issue of public smoking has not been settled to anyone's satisfaction, smoking restrictions have served mainly to antagonize tensions between two groups, and neither group felt that more laws were necessary or that anti-smoking advertising is effective in getting people to stop smoking. Notes reactions to specific anti-smoking ads.
- Named Organization
- AMERICAN HEART ASSN
- AMERICAN LUNG ASSN
- Named Person
- CONWAY MILKEN + ASSOCIATES
- PM, PHILIP MORRIS
- Los Angeles
- State Level
- Survey Groups
- Advertising Campaigns
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ATTITUDES TOWARD SMOKING
A QUALITATIVE EVALUATION
PHILIP MORRIS, USA
New York, New York
CONWAY/MILLIKEN & Associates
January, 1992 CA
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BACKGROUND AND QBJEC'1'IVES
California has been in the forefront in the past several years in terms of anti-smoking
regulations and advertising campaigns. In April of 1990, Proposition 99 went into effect,
whereby some portion of state cigarette taxes was used to subsidize anti-smoking
advertising. This was in the form of billboards, T.V. and radio commercials, and print ads.
The overall objective of this research assignment was to evaluate the current climate
toward smoking in California-among both smokers and non-smokers of cigarettes. More
specifically, the informational objectives of this research were;
o To measure attitudes toward smoking and smokers
o To determine awareness of and attitudes toward non-smoking regulations
o To evaluate these current restrictions in terms of their effect on smokers and
o To obtain consumer reactions to these and to possible future restrictions
o To measure what impact, if any, the current set of anti-smoking commercials
has had on smokers and non-smokers and their attitudes toward the issue of
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All original information from this report was developed from a total of six focus group
interviews conducted in Los Angeles on December 16 and 17, 1991. Two groups were
conducted with nonsmokers: one group was 18-24 year olds and the other, 25-34 year olds.
Male and female respondents were included in both of these groups. Nonsmokers were
defined as never having smoked cigarettes regularly or had stopped smoking at least two
years ago (only 2-3 respondents per group were former smokers).
Four groups were conducted with current smokers of at least 10 cigarettes per day (any
brand and type). The four groups were structured as follows:
o One group of male smokers, 18-24
o One group of male smokers, 25-35
o One group of female smokers, 18-24
o One group of female smokers, 25-35
All respondents were required to pass occupational security screening, previous
participation and articulation screening. In addition, a mix of attitudes toward smoking was
included in each group.
For nonsmokers, the interview opened with a general discussion of current issues of
interest and concern. The conversation then focused on attitudes toward smoking,
smokers, and non-smoking regulations. Recall of anti-smoking advertising efforts was then
discussed, followed by exposure to examples of recent billboard and television advertising
against smoking. These examples were then discussed in detail.
The interviews with smokers followed the same format, with the exception of the general w
discussion of current issues, which was excluded. W
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As is always the case with small-scale qualitative research, the findings from this study
should be considered hypotheses, prior to quantification. The results are not necessarily
projectable to any larger population.
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1. Even in LA., smoking in public was not on a par with the environment, AIDS, and
other issues in terms of overall importance. It was, however, an important and
emotional issue on the personal leveL Both smokers and nonsmokers had very
strong opinions on this subject-and these were diametrically opposing viewpoints.
The anti-smoking sentiment among nonsmokers appears to be supported and
reinforced by several external factors-the media (including anti-smoking
advertising), the expansion of smoking restrictions in public places, and the
pervasive focus on health-related matters in LA. These nonsmokers clearly feel
that they are "in the right" and their tolerance for smoking and smokers is limited.
2. The issue of smoking in public has not been settled to the satisfaction of either
smokers or nonsmokers. Each faction feels the other has the advantage-and they
view each other as rude and offensive. Nonsmokers' perception is that smokers
violate smoking regulations regularly and ignore polite requests not to smoke.
Conversely, smokers feel they have made all the concessions-that they are bending
over backwards to accommodate nonsmokers, and, in return, they continue to be
harassed even when they are smoking in an unrestricted area. The effect on
smokers was either a defensive/defiant attitude toward their own smoking in public
or a self-conscious one.
3. This research suggests that smoking restrictions have been only somewhat effective
in their understood objective to provide nonsmokers with a smoke-free
environment. However, they have been much more effective in creating antagonism
between the two groups. By limiting the areas where smokers can smoke, these
restrictions may have made them more protective of those areas where they can.
Nonsmokers, on the other hand, feel smoking restrictions in certain places justifies iy
their protesting smoking anywhere. ~
It was interesting to note that both smokers and nonsmokers had friends and/or N
spouses in the opposing camp-and there was much less friction in these G'I
relationships. On a one-on-one basis, smokers and nonsmokers have made mutuall}N
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satisfactory accommodations. Problems are more evident with strangers in public
places-and both smokers and nonsmokers seemed to feel that smoking restrictions
have made the other contingent more adamant and obnoxious.
4. While neither smokers and nonsmokers were content with current smoking
restrictions, they did not feel that additional laws were necessary. The logical
progression of nonsmoking laws was perceived as moving from smoking and
nonsmoking sections to a ban on smoking altogether. This was said to have
happened on air lnes and might next be seen in restaurants and other places. Even
the most determined anti-smokers felt there should be some leeway for smoking in
public-even if it were only outdoors.
Neither group felt that anti-smoking advertising was sufficiently impactful to induce
people to stop smoking. Smokers tended to ignore these ads as "old news". This
advertising did have the effect of reinforcing nonsmokers' attitudes toward smoking
and heighten their concern about the risks of environmental smoking. Both groups
felt many of these ads served to increase antagonism toward people who smoke.
The current pool of Proposition 99 advertising was, for the most part, not on target.
Particularly weak were the billboard and T.V. commercial portraying tobacco
companies as evil conspirators. The prevalent opinion was that these companies are
no different from any other business that exists to make a profit. This was "the
American way". The Boardroom commercial lost much of its impact by showing all
the board members smoking-i.e., they were not selling a product that they
themselves would not use.
7. Reactions to the E.T.S. commercials were very different for smokers and
nonsmokers. Smokers felt these commercials were exaggerated to the point of
being ridiculous and did not fairly represent smokers-they were much more
considerate of others than these ads showed. For nonsmokers, these ads confirmed
their current attitudes toward environmental smoking.
8. The Rap commercial was a good! idea badly executed. This kind of music was right
on target for the intended audience of teenagers. However, it antagonized Blacks
with its racial sterotyping and slavery references ("we used to pick it, now they want
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us to smoke it"). Both smokers and nonsmokers, however, applauded the approach
of portraying smoking as an unglamorous habit, which would be at least somewhat
effective in keeping teens from starting to smoke.
9. Smoking during pregnancy or around pregnant women was one point on which both
nonsmokers and smokers agreed. Both groups felt the advertising on this issue was
important and effective.
10. There was some sentiment on the part of nonsmokers that all of this anti-smoking
advertising was too "soft". What they felt was needed was more graphic
demonstrations of the negative effects of smoking. A very strong approach was seen
as necessary to get the attention of both current and potential smokers.
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NON-SMOKERS' A'ITITUDES AND PERCEPTIONS
Importance of Smoking in Public
Smoking was not top-of-mind as a critical issue of the dUfor non-smokers. It was
perceived to be more of a personal annoyance than a high priority problem.
Nonsmokers were asked to name current issues that were of concern to the country,
California, and Los Angeles. In response, they focused on such areas as AIDS, world peace
and the economy (and the related issues of unemployment and the homeless)as national
problems. These were perceived tobe the most critical issues.
Other problems of more concern in California and Los Angeles specifically were the
drought, crime/gangs, traffic and health. While health was relatively low on the list of
national, state or local issues, it was higher in terms of their personal focus. These health
concerns were primarily AIDS/safe sex, but also diet/exercise--'because this is LA."
As respondents had been screened and qualified~ on the basis of their smoking behavior
and attitudes--and also were informed at that time that this discussion would be about
smokers and smoking--it is noteworthy that smoking was absent from their lists of current
key issues. When asked where environmental'tobacco smoke would fit into their list of
concerns, it was generally last--after other health-related issues.
Even in terms of day-to-day annoyances, smoking was infrequently mentioned. Traffic and
smog/pollution were mentioned most often. A few nonsmokers did say that people
smoking near them at work or in restaurants was an annoyance they encountered recently.
Overall, however, environmental tobacco smoke was perceived as relatively unimportant in
the context of more critical world, local, and personal issues.
'here are more important things than smoking."
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Attitudes toward Smoking Restrictions
These nonsmokers were well aware of manv restrictions on smoking and unanimouslv
supported most of them.
The restriction that nonsmokers were most familiar with was non-smoking sections in
restaurants. While most felt this was a good idea (and some would not go to a restaurant
that didn't offer this option), this restriction was not perceived to be working very well.
Complaints were voiced that the smoking and non-smoking sections were too close
together ("defeating the purpose") and that the non-smoking sections were
smaller/required a wait for a table.
Several respondents mentioned that Beverly Hills had restricted smoking in all public
areas. However, some reported that this effort had failed 'because the restaurants were
losing too much money" and "people with money smoke".
While these respondents applauded nonsmoking sections in restaurants, bars were a very
different matter. They were not aware of any bars that restricted smoking, nor was this a
particular problem for them. Here, nonsmokers felt they had the option to go to a bar or
not--with the knowledge that they would, most likely, encounter smokers there. The
difference appears to be one of expectations. Nonsmokers may now expect to eat in a
smoke-free environment because smoking restrictions have made that option available, but
current laws have not carried that expectation over to bars.
Nonsmokers were also familiar with limitations or bans on smoking in the workplace.
Their perception was that this was at the discretion of the company or that it applied only
to large companies. Smoking in the workplace was not an issue with these respondents,
perhaps because "you don't see it anymore". Some seemed to relish the idea that "now they
have to go outside to smoke."
Smoking restrictions on airplanes were also frequently cited, but there appeared to be ~
some confusion about what these restrictions were. Some thought there were still smoking `W
and non-smoking sections, while others thought smoking was banned only on flights of a ~y
certain duration. Relatively few knew that smoking had been banned altogether on ~
domestic flights. It should be noted that few of these respondents were frequent air CA
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travelers. Their knowledge about smoking restrictions in airplanes (unlike restaurants and
work places) was generally not based on personal experience.
Other travel-related restrictions were also cited. Smoking or non-smoking options in hotel
rooms and rental cars as well as "no smoking" on public transportation were all mentioned
by a few respondents in each group. Some others mentioned smoking restrictions in indoor
sporting arenas and casinos.
While nonsmokers clearly feel they benefit from smoking restrictions, they also
Rerceived some negative effects.
The overwhelming consensus was that the purpose of these smoking restrictions was (and
should be) to provide nonsmokers with a smoke-free environment:
'We have the right to breathe clean air. "
"Smoking shouldn't affect nonsrnokers. "
These nonsmokers reported an aversion to smoking on two bases:
o Health -"You can die from breathing it in"
-"f hate smoke because it a ffects my lungs. "
o Comfort -'You come out smelling like smoke.
-"dt's like being in a dirty cloud "
Respondents' personal dislike for environmental tobacco smoke seemed to be reinforced
and justified by publicity about its possible negative effects. Current restrictions on
smoking seem to have intensified their perception that environmental tobacco smoke is
harmful to nonsmokers.
These nonsmokers disagreed! strongly that these restrictions served to "make it easier for
smokers and nonsmokers to get along." Many felt that they had the opposite effect
--establishing both physical and psychological barriers between the two groups.