Study Says Sex Appeal Goes Up in Smoke : Ads Called Misleading, as Even Smokers Prefer Nonsmokers

United Press International Science Writer

Despite ads that portray smokers as glamorous and sexy, most people find others less attractive when they smoke, a study of college students reported.

“The basic finding was that despite what advertisements would have us believe, both smokers and nonsmokers tend to rate smokers less attractive,” said Eddie Clark, an assistant professor of psychology at Memphis State University, who conducted the study.

“The cigarette ads portray people who smoke as glamorous and sexy, but that’s not what the real image of a smoker is,” said Clark, who presented his finding at a meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine.


Clark and his colleagues asked 229 college students to watch videotapes of male and female models as smokers or nonsmokers, then asked them to rate their attractiveness and other impressions about their sexual appeal.

The nonsmokers were rated more highly on an attractiveness scale, even by the viewers who smoked themselves, Clark said.

While both male and female smokers were rated as less attractive, smoking appeared to diminish women’s attractiveness the most, he said.

“If you compare smoking women to nonsmoking women and smoking men to nonsmoking men, in both cases chances are the smoker is the one that is going to be liked less. That effect is much stronger for women than men,” he said.

The male nonsmokers rated an average of 52 on an attractiveness scale; smokers rated 42. Female nonsmokers rated an average of 68; smokers rated 47.

In addition, smokers were rated higher on a scale measuring viewer impressions of the likelihood of susceptibility toward sexual activity. “What this is probably saying is they are being perceived as promiscuous. It’s sexual activity of a negative sort,” Clark said. On a scale of 1 to 7, the average rating for smokers on the videotape was 4; it was 3 for nonsmokers.

Male subjects also indicated a greater preference for engaging in intimate behavior with female nonsmokers than female smokers, he said.

All the findings held true regardless of whether the viewers were smokers or not, Clark said.

“You would think that smokers would not have that bias, that they would not see that person as less likable or more promiscuous. But that’s not true,” he said.