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The Language of ‘Quit Smoking’ Advertisements Saffiyah Patel

Outlife a charity based in Brixton, London identifies smoking as ‘dangerous’ which can affect ones mental and physical health (Outlife, 2018). Cigarette smoking has become highly fashionable and was ‘easy to carry in battle’ and ‘helps keep the nerves calm’ (Pampel, 2009) a phrase still used today by cigarette smokers. Famous musician Katy Perry resorted to smoking as it calms her nerves as attention is always on her. Suggesting that not only is there a social pressure to smoke and a want and need, but the pressure is also driven by popstars and Hollywood heroes. Furthermore, Cigarettes are no longer cheap. According to a Statista report, in 2005 the average cigarette cost £4.82. The prices plummeting to £10.00 due to high demand and the consumerist nature of society.

Darvin argues that the use of social media and technology is what will ‘transform the world into something better’ (Darvin, Pg 525, 2016).

In support of this, one of the ways to help prevent smoking can be measured through advertising methods and technology. The tool persuasion is also vital especially for brands when advertising. ‘Language has the power to empower’ and so it s important to be weary of the language used around us when advertising (Ponton, Pg 210, 2020).

Language with reference to ‘Quit Smoking’ advertisements is often associated with identity and empowerment especially in western cultures. The rise of Hookah has also led to the acceptance of smoking and is seen as a luxury in many countries such as Morocco, Egypt and Dubai. A 2016, Tobacco Free Futures advertisement to quit smoking reminds the viewer ‘You smoke, Your child smokes!’. The viewer is reminded that the cigarette has control over the buyer/viewer and so further persuades the viewer to quit smoking. The loss of control results in a loss of identity therefore, through the advertisement the respect of individualism  is reinforced.

Kaplan and Haenlein discuss the importance of social media and ‘being interesting’. In order for the advertisement to capture attention, the advertisement compares the innocence of a child and the grotesqueness of smoking through the imagery used (Kaplan and Haenlein, Pg 66, 2010). The image represents the infants lungs as black and damaged which further reminds the viewer of the damage they are causing. Research suggests that placing graphic images (such as punctured lungs) and larger health warnings has resulted in smoking rates dropping by 50% since the 70s. Therefore, through the use of the graphic image, advertisers hope smokers will feel guilt and put their families and loved ones first instead of at risk.

The use of ‘You’ also known as ‘synthetic personalisation’ according to Fairclough is where the individual is represented (Fairclough, 2001). Due to the use of ‘you’ the advertisement exclusively addresses smokers creating an ‘in group’. This advertisement also represents children of smokers and reassures the viewer that they are not only putting themselves at risk but they are also endangering their loved ones.

Research has further shown that not only do ‘quit smoking’ advertisements aid in quit smoking but campaigns such as ‘Stoptober’ also help. Holbrook describes campaigns as ‘information generators’ and argues that campaigns are important in spreading information (Holbrook, Pg 16, 1996).  Stoptober was a campaign which began in October 2012 and 1 million smokers attempted to quit smoking as a result. According to Public Health England, if one stops smoking for a month, they are likely to live a lifetime smoke free. However, a negative to these ‘quit smoking’ advertisements is that there is no focus on these campaigns (such as Stoptober) or tips to stay motivated to quit smoking. Instead of focusing on the positive effects quitting smoking can have, the campaigns show the adverse effect of smoking and place the blame on the individual.

Similarly, Adidas’s ‘quit smoking’ advertisement carries out the same role. The conceptual metaphor ‘impossible is nothing’ reminds the viewer that  quitting is difficult but doable. It also creates the idea that quitting is like a battle which adds to the inspirational nature of the advertisement. Thus, Adidas uses language to advertise quitting smoking as a process and not something which can be done instantly. This also creates an identity for the brand as Adidas is seen as a group of people that want to be part of a journey rather than a company which Elliott et al (2015) calls having a ‘brand personality’. This is where the company are seen as people and helpers rather than profit makers (Elliott et al, 2015).

The metaphor further assumes that the smoker is willing to change and put their health first. Aaker et al argues that Adidas from many other brands represent didactic lessons for both females and males and encourage those to be healthy (Aaker et al, 2012). Instead of advertising gym wear or trainers as usual, the brand ensures that viewers acknowledge that a healthy lifestyle starts within themselves. Unlike the first advertisement, the Adidas advertisement reminds viewers to take an active role and put their physical health first.

 Jim Andrews further discusses how “stopping smoking results in improving health no matter what age, improves mental health, circulation of the body is much better, you start to feel energetic and less tired and you feel empowered” (Andrews, Pg 107, 2017).

Therefore, viewers/buyers feel empowered as by quitting smoking, each part of the self will be at its best.

The concept of ‘impossible is nothing’ is also seen through the imagery of the cigarette butts. The longer the cigarette butt, the shorter duration of a cigarette being smoked. According to Hoffman, quitting smoking can be ‘a lonely feeling’ (Hoffman and Hoffman, 1998). However, ‘brand personality’ is reinforced once again through the cigarette butts replacing the Adidas logo. This not only shows the brand placing the health first of its consumers but also portrays a ‘we are in this together’ concept. Even though it is a simple message, it creates the outlook that smoking is not a habit nor identity of an Adidas athlete and consumer and therefore must be stopped.

As seen, quitting smoking can be reinforced through advertisements by either making consumers feel guilty or motivating them to reach their ideal healthy self. Through the imagery smoking is seen as a grotesque and harmful habit however from the language observed it can be stopped. It is also important to consider that there is a social pressure to smoke due to gangs and the concept of ‘fitting in’. Therefore, Language can be used as a tool to advertise the dangers of smoking and help millions of individuals to quit. 

Word Count: 1092 / 1000


Adidas, 2012, Impossible is Nothing Smoking Advert, <> [Accessed: 19th April 2020]

Aeker, D, 2012, Building Strong Brands, The Free Press, New York, USA

Andrews, J, 2017, How to pleasurably Stop Smoking, Vispo.Com Publishing, Canada

Darvin, R,  2016, Language and Identity in the Digital Age, Routledge, The Chinese University, Hong Kong

Elliott, R, 2015, Strategic Brand Management, Oxford University Press, UK

Fairclough, N, 2001,  Language and Power, Pearson Educated

Hoffman & Hoffman, E, C, Recovery from Smoking, Hazelden, Minnesota, USA

Holbrook, T, 1996, Do Campaigns Matter? SAGE 1996, USA

Kaplan, A, 2015,  Social Media, The Digital Revolution and the business of media, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group

Outlife, 2018, <> [Accessed 16th April 2020]

Ponton, D, Understanding Political Persuasion, Vernon Press 2020,  USA

Stoptober Campaign, 2012, [Accessed 16th April 2020]

Statista Report, Recommended retail price of a typical pack of 20 cigarettes in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2005 to 2017 <> [Accessed: 26th April 2020]

Tobacco Free Futures Stop Smoking Advertisement, 2012 <> [Accessed: 26th April 2020]

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