New antismoking campaigns aimed at American Indian and Native Alaskan communities feature personal stories, instead of statistics or fear-inducing images, The New York Times reports.
Campaigns based on numbers or images of disease and shortened life have not been effective in these communities, the article notes. American Indians and Native Alaskans have some of the nation’s highest rates of smoking. Approximately 27 percent of American Indian and Native Alaskan adults smoke, compared with 18 percent for U.S. adults overall.
“We are hard-wired to relate to stories,” said Dr. Tim McAfee, the Director of the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last year the CDC ran ads that showed smokers who spoke about how smoking caused health problems including paralysis, lung removal and amputations. According to the CDC, call volume to its national toll-free quit line, 800-QUIT-NOW, more than doubled while the ads ran.
Tobacco use is especially hard to combat in these communities because it is linked to religious tradition and history. Some American Indian tribes have ceremonial traditions of smoking, which run counter to antismoking messages. In Alaska, tobacco is associated with the military. During World War II, soldiers stationed across the state brought tobacco to isolated rural communities, which often had little experience with nicotine.