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Public Service Announcements intervention for smoking cessation

Contributed by: Sapienza University of Rome

More than two hundred participants have been recorded through state of the art electroencephalographic, heart rate, skin conductance and eye tracking techniques. This huge number of neurophysiological data is under analysis, but preliminary results support the application of such techniques for the discrimination of features of effectiveness in the tested antismoking Public Service Announcements (PSAs).
Public Service Announcements intervention for smoking cessation
Although PSAs against smoking have been broadcasted since the 1950s, their effectiveness on the general public is extremely variable, resulting in a series of efficient or inefficient campaigns. A direct analysis of the measured cerebral/emotional reaction to particular PSAs therefore appears worthy of investigation by neurophysiological techniques, to obtain measurable physiological responses to be coupled with the explicit feedback provided by more traditional interviews and questionnaires. The aim of this effort is to generate a neurophysiologic model of the effective versus ineffective PSAs against smoking to be used in the a-priori evaluation of antismoking PSAs to be disseminated to the different Ministers for Health of EU Member States.

The specific goals in terms of research activity for Sapienza University, Rome in the SmokeFreeBrain project are two-fold:
- To use advanced electroencephalography (EEG), heart rate (HR) and galvanic skin response (GSR) signal processing tools to generate variables linked to the cerebral and emotional appreciation /rejection of the PSA investigated;
- To determine a suitable subset of these variables that will be more effective to characterise such appreciation/rejection of PSA in the different target populations.

In order to classify and select a set of PSAs, the first working step was the gathering of anti-smoking PSAs material and the analysis of the literature (scientific articles, official reports and official sites) about anti-smoking campaigns aired in different countries of the world, in order to identify the campaigns as either effective or ineffective, and those that received awards and prizes for creativity and for the best idea. The research lasted approximately 4 months and led to the collection of more than 150 videos and more than 200 images. The PSAs were classified on the basis of independent metrics (key performance indicators) relying on: awareness, behavioral and wellbeing improvements attributable to the campaign. After that, we compared the PSAs so to select very effective, very ineffective and most awarded campaigns to use as stimuli in our protocol of exposure.

The target population of the protocol is wide and divided in a younger and an older sample. So to investigate the “age effect” reflected by the possible different reaction to the antismoking PSAs in the population, since some PSAs focus on a specific age target. Furthermore, we divided the participants on the basis of their smoking habits (no smokers, light smokers and heavy smokers), so to test the “consumer effect”, and income (high and low), in order to test if the economical disadvantages could be influential in the reaction to tobacco messages exposure, since some evidences of the higher risk to develop tobacco consumption in this social class.

By now we recruited more than two hundred participants, whose data are under analysis, but we already obtained some interesting and encouraging preliminary results on a young subsample. First evidences suggest that Heavy Smokers show the highest cerebral approach tendency toward the antismoking PSAs, while No Smokers report the lowest ones. Viceversa for Subjects with Low Income. So it seems that the personal condition in terms of smoking habit and income determine mainly the approach attitude response to the PSAs and not the PSA per se. Furthermore, the cerebral effort experienced in response to effective antismoking images appear to be lower in comparison to the other PSAs. Also the study of the visual fixation highlighted some differences in the pattern, in particular it seems that the awarded PSAs videos resulted as the most fixated and the ineffective as the less fixated.

These results are extremely promising but after the completion of the analysis, including the adult sample, will allow us to get the full scenario! Do not miss the next steps and extended results of our study!
Authors: Sapienza University, Rome



    Sapienza University of Rome
    Piazzale Aldo Moro 5
    00185 Rome


Related information


Countries (7)

  • Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Italy, Serbia, United Kingdom


smoking seccation, public announcements, intervention, smoking
Record Number: 139535 / Last updated on: 2017-03-23
Category: Scientific advances
Provider: WIRE
Revision: 1
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