Mass media campaigns can be effective in tobacco control but may widen health inequalities if they fail to engage disadvantaged smokers. This qualitative study explored how parents with young children living in disadvantaged circumstances engaged with a national campaign which aimed to raise awareness of the importance of smokefree homes. Individual semi-structured interviews were carried out with 17 parents before and after the Scottish 2014 “Right Outside” mass media campaign. A conceptual framework exploring meaningful exposure (recall and understanding), motivational responses (protecting children from secondhand smoke (SHS)) and opportunities to act (barriers) was used to thematically analyse the findings. Campaign recall and engagement, and motivation to protect children were high. Parents identified with the dramatized scenario and visual impact of SHS harm to children in the TV advertisement. Some reported changed smoking practices. However, supervising young children in limited accommodation when caring alone constrained opportunities to smoke outside. Instead, parents described actions other than smoking outside that they had taken or were planning to take to create smokefree homes. Mass media campaigns using emotive, real-life circumstances can be effective in engaging parents about SHS. However, the behavioural impact may be limited because of difficult home environments and circumstances.
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