Consumer Behaviour: Efficacy of Anti-Smoking Initiatives on Continuance by Young Adults in Australia

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Liau, Chee How ORCID: 0000-0002-9226-5617 (2022) Consumer Behaviour: Efficacy of Anti-Smoking Initiatives on Continuance by Young Adults in Australia. Other Degree thesis, Victoria University.


Tobacco smoking is a preventable cause of illness, disability and death in Australia. Despite the rigorous implementation of anti-smoking initiatives since 2013, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) national and state-based surveys for 2018-2019 revealed that the reduction of smoking rate in Australia has halted for the first time since 2013. Furthermore, the number of young adults that continue smoking has remained relatively stable. Based on the patterns of continuance of smoking by young adult smokers, the efficacy of anti-smoking initiatives on consumer behaviour in this demographic is limited. The aim of this research is to explore the consumer behaviour of young adult smokers, to understand why they continue to smoke and to discover factors that support continuance of smoking behaviour. The focus is on young adult smokers between the ages of 18 to 30. The aim leads to the following research questions: First, why do young adult smokers continue with their smoking habit despite the negative health consequences; second, what are the attitudes of young adult smokers towards anti-smoking initiatives in Australia; and do anti-smoking initiatives in Victoria, Australia help discourage young adult smokers from their smoking habit? The Theory of planned behaviour (TPB) is used to examine young adults continuance smoking, as attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control impact their smoking uptake. The study employs logistic regression and structural equation modelling (SEM) to predict young adults’ continuance smoking behaviour, while inferential statistics are used to explore the intensity of the linkages between those significant variables. Consistent with the general findings in literature, first, the results of the study reaffirm that addiction is a key factor that contributes to continuous smoking behaviour in young people, and second, scare tactics, fear campaigns and anti-smoking advertisements to shock young adults into quitting seems to do little to encourage them to quit. The first factor implies that abstinence (from nicotine) is an important step to stopping ongoing smoking behaviour. Nevertheless, psychological addiction, such as sensory cues (e.g., smell of smoke, heat and sight), might also be a factor. It seems that current anti-smoking initiatives pay little attention on both physiological and psychological addictions and appear to have adopted an ‘one-size-fit-all’ approach (in term of the use of health terrifying images and warnings) to discourage ongoing smoking behaviour which has diminished efficacy over time and extended exposure. As well, this study supports social-cultural dimensions as being impactful. A SEM results reveal that the socioeconomic disadvantage, peer pressure, and emotional stress, addiction, habits, and self-identity are major factors that lead to continue smoking. Reflecting these findings, the implementation of smoke-free policies, increase in tobacco taxation, and the use of plain packaging on cigarette packets are important influences on young adults’ smoking consumer behaviour. As well, inferential statistics shows a substantial number of young smokers are resistant to pictorial health images and text warnings on cigarette packets. Reflecting this resistance, young adult smokers appear to pay no attention to Quit Victoria advertising or at best these advertisements do not establish an urgency to quit smoking. In contrast, smoke-free policies are reported as being successful in changing smoking behaviour, and young adult smokers themselves urged increased cigarette prices to discourage smoking and stricter smoke-free policies to position smoking as a socially unacceptable behaviour. Theoretically, this study adds new insights to consumer behaviour in relation to the efficacy of anti-smoking initiatives in Australia. Some key takeaways include the lack of effect of pictorial health and text warnings to young smokers, the benefits of plain packaging, the significance of cigarette price increments and the effectiveness of smoke-free policies. All these initiatives help deter continuance of smoking behaviour by young adults. Practically, the current anti-smoking initiatives appear to focus on smokers’ health, and tobacco control organisations use the harmful impact of cigarettes to dissuade smoking behaviour. In contrast, study findings suggest that anti-smoking messages could be widened to emphasise impact on the environment alongside health impacts of smoking. A more integrated response is also suggested by formalizing links between Quitline and health/ counselling services via a formal referral system, as opposed to generic marketing publicity. Some study limitations are noted. These limitations generate opportunities for future research. For instance, affections and feelings are useful future areas of study. These factors may indirectly influence intentions and actions, independent to other predictors in the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Also, the demographic composition for this research was only based on participants in metropolitan Victoria, Australia Thus, it is difficult to generalize findings to a national young smoker population as the young smokers in other regions and countries may hold different attitudes and be influenced by different factors.

Additional Information

Doctor of Business Administration

Item type Thesis (Other Degree thesis)
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3506 Marketing
Current > Division/Research > VU School of Business
Keywords tobacco; smoking; smokers; Victoria; Australia; anti-smoking initiatives; advertisements; young adults; consumer behaviour; theory of planned behaviour; logistic regression; structural equation modelling; addiction
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