03/11/2015 2:30 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Those Anti-Smoking Ads Might Be Making Smokers 'Angry And Defensive', Study Reveals

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Male executive on telephone with cigar and curled lip (B&W)

WASHINGTON D.C. -- A new study has suggested that anti-smoking advertisements could lower smokers' self-esteem making them angry and defensive which would make it less likely for them to quit.

According to the research, stigmatising smoking could, in some cases, make it harder for people to quit because the negative messages can lead to a drop in self-esteem.

Rebecca Evans-Polce of the Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center said that consequences of stigmatising stereotypes ranged from increased intentions to quit smoking to increased stress to greater resistance to quitting smoking.

In the study, Evans-Polce and colleagues conducted a review of almost 600 articles relating to smoking self-stigma.

The authors said that health policies could instead focus on more positive strategies, reinforcing the benefits of giving up smoking rather than reiterating negative stereotypes, adding that the stereotypes that smokers dealt with were almost universally negative.

They found that 30 to 40 percent of smokers felt high levels of family disapproval and social unacceptability and 27 percent felt they were treated differently due to their smoking status. Another study found that 39 percent of smokers believed that people thought less of them.

Evans-Lacko said that the stigma for parents who smoked was particularly strong.

The stigma surrounding smokers leads to a number of different outcomes, including relapses, increased resistance to quitting, self-induced social isolation and higher stress levels.

Evans-Lacko said the evidence showed that vulnerable groups with few coping resources would benefit from anti-smoking programs that did not stigmatise smoking but focus instead on the benefits of giving up.

The study is published in the Journal Social Science and Medicine.

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