Anti-tobacco television ads that generate fear or sadness by showing the diseases caused by smoking are more effective in reaching youth, compared to ads that are funny and entertaining or focus on what is or isn’t cool, according to a study published by a University of Massachusetts researcher.

Study author, Lois Biener of the Center for Survey Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston, says that “if tobacco companies are looking for the most effective way to reach youth with the ‘don’t smoke’ message, they should rely on the findings of this study and develop advertising campaigns that portray real people with cancer, emphysema or heart disease. Federal and state health agencies, as well as public health groups, who have limited resources for advertising, should also adopt the same strategy for their anti-smoking message to be effective.”

Her study contradicts previous findings that anti-tobacco ads are more effective in reaching youth when the ads identify smoking as being socially unacceptable because it can cause bad breath, tainted teeth and disapproval of peers.