An examination of social marketing campaigns for the prevention of youth problem gambling

Abstract

Children and youth are exposed to a growing number of pressures from parents, peers, media, and society. They are confronted with competing and conflicting messages promoting adult lifestyle choices from a broad range of media. The accessibility, availability, and promotion of alcohol, tobacco, and gambling products, coupled with the media's glamorization and normalization of illicit drugs and sexuality, are placing adolescents at an increased risk for the development of risky behaviours. Such high-risk behaviours include tobacco use, substance abuse, self-inflicted injury, unprotected sex and gambling. The latter has only recently emerged as a significant public health issue. While in the past there have been numerous efforts aimed at preventing the onset, reducing the risk, and minimizing the consequences of many high-risk behaviours, little attention has been focused on youth gambling. Despite the overwhelming negative impact problem gambling poses on individuals and society, there have been few gambling prevention campaigns specifically targeting youth. As well, little attention has been paid to the untapped resource of social marketing despite the fact that social marketing as a planned process of social change has been a powerful tool in the development of comprehensive health promotion and prevention strategies that positively impact health behaviour. As such, Social Marketing Campaigns (SMCs) may be an effective prevention tool for minimizing youth gambling problems. This paper critically reviews the literature on past and current drug, alcohol and tobacco use prevention media campaigns, examining the similarities across effective health communication programs with the aim of viewing its applicability for the prevention of youth problem gambling. There is evidence that such efforts have beneficial effects in general (e.g., increased responsible attitudes, delayed age of onset of involvement in high-risk behaviours, and lower rates of problematic behaviours) and that responsible social policies and regulations regarding advertising can have positive effects on minimizing high-risk behaviours in youth. This review identifies the critical features of campaigns viewed as effective (e.g., target audience, product and message development, communication, and dissemination strategy) and assesses the applicability of the research findings for youth problem gambling. The analysis is followed by recommendations for the design, implementation, and evaluation of a youth gambling SMC, and recommendations for policy on restricting the promotion and advertising of gambling and gambling products to minors.

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