Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Perceptions of anti-smoking messages amongst high school students in Pakistan

Syed MA Zaidi1*, Abdul L Bikak1, Ayesha Shaheryar1, Syed H Imam1 and Javaid A Khan2

Author Affiliations

1 Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, Pakistan

2 Section of Pulmonology, Department of Medicine, Aga Khan University, Stadium Road, Karachi, Pakistan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:117  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-117

Published: 18 February 2011

Abstract

Background

Surveys have provided evidence that tobacco use is widely prevalent amongst the youth in Pakistan. Several reviews have evaluated the effectiveness of various tobacco control programs, however, few have taken into account the perceptions of students themselves regarding these measures. The aim of this study was to determine the most effective anti-smoking messages that can be delivered to high-school students in Pakistan, based on their self-rated perceptions. It also aimed to assess the impact of pictorial/multi-media messages compared with written health warnings and to discover differences in perceptions of smokers to those of non-smokers to health warning messages.

Methods

This study was carried out in five major cities of Pakistan in private English-medium schools. A presentation was delivered at each school that highlighted the well-established health consequences of smoking using both written health warnings and pictorial/multi-media health messages. Following the presentation, the participants filled out a graded questionnaire form, using which they rated the risk-factors and messages that they thought were most effective in stopping or preventing them from smoking. The Friedman test was used to rank responses to each of the questions in the form. The Wilcoxon Signed Rank test used to analyze the impact of pictorial/multi-media messages over written statements. The Mann Whitney U test was used to compare responses of smokers with those of non-smokers.

Results

Picture of an oral cavity cancer, videos of a cancer patient using an electronic voice box and a patient on a ventilator, were perceived to be the most effective anti-smoking messages by students. Addiction, harming others through passive smoking and impact of smoking on disposable incomes were perceived to be less effective messages. Pictorial/multi-media messages were perceived to be more effective than written health warnings. Health warnings were perceived as less effective amongst smokers compared to non-smokers.

Conclusion

Graphic pictorial/multi-media health warnings that depict cosmetic and functional distortions were perceived as effective anti-smoking messages by English-medium high school students in Pakistan. Smokers demonstrated greater resistance to health promotion messages compared with non-smokers. Targeted interventions for high school students may be beneficial.