Why do children change their mind about smoking? Child development theory applied to social marketing practice

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Business and Public Management


School of Marketing, Tourism and Leisure




Wang, C. & Henley, N. (2001) Why do children change their minds about smoking? Child development theory applied to social marketing practice. Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference, Massey University, New Zealand. Original article available here


Anti-smoking efforts generally provide information on the health consequences of smoking to ‘inoculate’ children against tobacco use. These strategies appeal to children’s cognitive processes but do not recognise that children of different ages are at varying stages of cognitive development or that children go through stages in their conceptions of illness. These stages could determine how behavioural health consequences are understood. We are attempting to understand why children abandon previously held negative attitudes toward smoking by exploring their cognitive stages of development. This study presents data from individual interviews with 73 children from Perth schools aged 10 and 15 years on smokingrelated illness concepts. Our findings clearly indicate that children of 10 years (concrete logical stage) conceptualise the consequences of smoking differently from 15 year olds (formal logical stage). Results suggest that social marketers should design anti-smoking messages for children that are stage-appropriate.

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