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Smoking Cessation: How to get 20 to 25 year old Canadians to consider quitting.
This report examines the smoking habits of Canadians aged 20-25 from a sociological perspective to identify the underlying beliefs, values, and meanings that guide both smoking behaviour and the triggers to quit.
Developed by Sonic Boom, this report aims to answer the question:
“What do marketers need to do to get 20-25 year old Canadians to consider quitting?”
Primary Research: Digital Ethnography of thousands of online data points created by target audiences engaging around a range of topics pertaining to or related to the act of smoking.
Secondary Research: Existing body of published sociological research examined and referenced.
Smoking Cessation: How to get 20 to 25 year old Canadians to consider quitting.
HOW TO GET 20-25 YEAR OLDS TO QUIT
A REPORT BY SONIC BOOM, 2013
This report examines the smoking habits of Canadians
aged 20-25 from a sociological perspective to identify
the underlying beliefs, values, and meanings that
guide both smoking behaviour and the triggers to quit.
Developed by Sonic Boom, this report aims to answer
“What do marketers need to do to get 20-25 year
old Canadians to consider quitting?”
COPYRIGHT SONIC BOOM, 2013.
Sonic Boom used a combination of primary and secondary research in the development of this report. The goal in conducting
and publishing this research was to understand the role smoking
occupies in people’s lives by looking at the world from their perspective.
Our research process involved:
Primary Research: Proprietary Digital Ethnographic research
methodology was used to analyze thousands of online conversations and the identities of people having them, in the context of
smoking and associated activities such as going out to a bar with
friends or taking a lunch break.
Secondary Research: An analysis of published research across
numerous industry and academic journals in the past decade in
Our research identiﬁed three dominant belief systems guiding
smoking behaviour in the target age group. Each of these belief
systems was organized into archetypes (or personas) that drew a
connection between the beliefs and values of the audience and
their motivations to smoke.
The construction of archetypes also took variables such as education, location, socio-economic background, and various manifestations of “peer pressure” into consideration.
The following pages will take you through each of these archetypes, explaining at a high level what smoking means to people
that fall within these groups, and what we would need to do as
marketers to engage smokers and get them to consider quitting.
Based on our analysis, the following archetypes have been organized based on their relationship to the act of smoking.
• Activists: Smoking is identity driven, for the purpose of rebellion.
• Socialites: Smoking is socially driven, for the purpose of building relationships with peer groups.
• New Blue Collars: Smoking is stress driven, for the purpose
of taking a break from routine tasks and activities.
Activists construct their self-image of rebellion through art and
politics-based content, and are innately urban. They create and
consume the city. They are intellectually sharp, informed, and
quick to sniff out what’s cool and what’s not in culture. They are
trendsetters and are therefore marketed to heavily by cigarette
Activists’ identities centre around alternative culture and creative originality. They scoff at "good",
"earnest", "civic-mindedness" and laugh in the
face of state-directed notions of health and wellbeing. They live life on their own terms.
Activists are likely to have struggled (or know
someone who has) with some form of depression
or low self-esteem, and so project a cynical attitude towards the world.
To Activists, smoking symbolizes creativity (art,
poetry, music) and cynicism. It works as a way to
reject the control that is seemingly exerted by the
government, by society’s social norms, and other
Socialites are predominantly in post-secondary
education environments (college and/or university), and smoking amongst them occurs for social conformity. As a result, many Socialites do
not even identify themselves as ‘smokers’.
Socialites are looking to ‘ﬁt-in’ with their peer
groups and want to look good while doing so.
They are typically looking for relationships at this
stage in their lives and consider social-smoking
as an attractive quality in a mate.
New Blue Collars
New Blue Collars (NBCs) come from lower working classes and do not have university level education (but may have attended a technical college). NBCs are embedded in networks of smokers at the family (had parents who smoked),
friend, and co-worker level.
They have a low sense of personal control over
their lives and futures, and are riddled with stress
- related to money and the fact that they are already out in the "real world" having to deal with
the daily grind of work-life.
Smoking helps relieve some of that pressure.
Apart from dealing with stress, men in particular,
also use smoking to reduce negative emotions
such as anger and depression.
NBCs live for their weekends. They love to party,
drink and smoke, and work through their weeks
with the weekend’s reward in mind.
To the New Blue Collars, smoking provides a
break from the daily grind, and a way to exert
control of one’s seemingly routine life.
Above all else, Socialites seek conﬁdence: They
are young, still “ﬁnding themselves”, and enjoying a new-found sense of freedom, having recently moved out of their parents’ home. So to
them, smoking is a way to show others that one
is self-assured, in control, and slightly edgy.
Generally, this age group feels invincible. They believe they’re
not addicted and can easily quit when they decide to. They are
aware that negative health affects can be prevented if they quit
before the age of 30, and therefore feel they have plenty of time
Activists are undeterred by the physical risk of death associated
with smoking. In fact, research suggests anti-smoking tactics that
focus on the health consequences of smoking are especially ineffective, as the ‘forbidden fruit’ quality can stimulate smokers to
identify more strongly with the act.
Socialites worry a lot. They worry about their future, and about
how their smoking affects people around them, particularly in social situations that aren’t conducive to smoking.
The right kind of health messages may trigger this group to quit,
but will need to empower them to take action themselves - as this
group is already lacking in conﬁdence and selfesteem.
Socialites are particularly affected by messages
that pertain to health consequences in the now.
New Blue Collars (NBCs)
Like the Socialites, NBCs are also most affected
by conversations pertaining to current health
problems, rather than something they may have
to deal with in the future. Interestingly, unlike the
other archetypes, NBCs do not currently see
themselves as being healthy. Health doesn’t become a concern for them until later in their lives.
HOW TO GET
THEM TO QUIT
Activists are less likely to quit out of future concern and worry
(like the socialites) unless it becomes an issue for them NOW.
They do not expect to see themselves smoking a year from now
and typically quit when undergoing transitions in life, such as getting married, having a child, or even entering into a relationship
with someone who doesn’t smoke.
Getting Activists to quit requires a focus on breaking the meanings they currently associate with the act of smoking. That is,
breaking the illusion that smoking allows them to express their
creativity, reject norms in society, or even express a sense of cynicism for the world they live in.
It requires one to draw attention to the fact that smoking is an activity that allows cigarette manufacturers to control Activists and
their behaviour. Smoking, in fact, takes away an Activist’s freedom.
Like the Activists, Socialites do not see themselves smoking in a year from now, and often
quit when going through life-transitions such as
having children or getting married.
Getting Socialites to quit requires a focus on
breaking the illusion that smoking makes them
friends, and gives them a self-assured, freespirited persona. For this archetype, it is particularly important to focus on the positive social outcomes that can result from activities that don’t involve smoking.
New Blue Collars
Unlike the other two archetypes, NBCs see themselves smoking in a year from now. And that is
because they are surrounded by smokers across
their lives and communities.
Getting NBCs to quit requires breaking the illusions of stress relief and relaxation (associated
with smoking). Most importantly, it requires a focus on positive life outcomes that can result from
not smoking. For example, having more money
to enjoy the weekends, or having the conﬁdence
to try new things or learn new skills that can
break the routine and help achieve better social
and economic status.
The Ultimate Illusion
Audiences in this age category are very aware of
the long term effects of smoking, but that doesn’t
deter them from smoking today. This audience
operates under the impression that they can quit
when they feel like it. That is the ultimate illusion.
Messages to this age category must address
Reaching Canadian smokers between the ages of 20-25 requires
a speciﬁc approach. One that focuses on addressing the meanings they associate with the act of smoking, rather than on its ill
Gaining audience attention requires content and programs that
are culturally relevant to each archetype. It also requires soft-sell
tactics in order to limit the barrier to engagement.
Getting smokers to consider a behavioural change requires a
focus on breaking the various illusions each archetype associates with smoking, and ultimately creating new cultural meanings
in the marketplace through interesting content, programs, and
For more information on how our insights can be applied to reach
audiences with strategic programs and content, contact us at
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In order of appearance:
Page 2: Bhumika.B
Page 3: Jonathan Kos-Read
Page 6: Helga Weber
Page 8: Kris Krug
Page 10: Ed Yourdon