Thousands of Americans Kicking the Habit

Smoking cessation ad campaign had huge successes according to researchers

(RxWiki News) Quitting smoking can be one of the best decisions a person can make, but convincing someone to kick the habit can be hard. A national campaign has figured out some new ways to approach the problem.

A recently published study on a federal anti-smoking program suggested that large anti-smoking efforts that include mass media could help many Americans quit smoking.

The program used commercials to explain the dangers of smoking and encourage people to talk to their loved ones about not smoking.

The researchers found that the ad campaign was seen by millions of people and encouraged hundreds of thousands of smokers to put down the pack.

"Ask your doctor for help quitting smoking."

Tim McAffee, MD, of the Office of Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and several colleagues conducted this study to see if a nationwide anti-smoking campaign was effective.

Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable death around the globe and causes 5 million deaths every year.

Smoking can cause cancer and other negative health effects, and the habit reduces life expectancy by about 10 years. However, smokers who quit before they turn 45 live an average of 10 years longer than those who keep smoking.

Only 5 percent of American smokers ditch their addiction every year, but that doesn't mean that more don't try. In fact, about half of the 45 million US smokers try to quit each year.

Many local, state, national and worldwide campaigns have been launched to try to decrease smoking, with mixed success rates.

The anti-smoking campaign that was tested in this study was created by the CDC. "Tips From Former Smokers," or "Tips," lasted for three months and featured television ads and other media that showed individuals who had suffered the consequences of smoking. "Tips" was the first national, federally-funded, mass-media smoking cessation campaign.

In the advertisements, former smokers told their true stories to encourage and motivate smokers to quit and talk to their loved ones about the hazards of tobacco use.

The "Tips" campaign began in March of 2012 and ended three months later in June. The commercials appeared in all American media markets enough times to reach the majority of adults in the US. Some of the commercials included references to 1-800-QUIT-NOW or, which provide smoking cessation resources.

The researchers used a panel of 4,108 current smokers who were adults from across the US, as well as a group of 2,220 non-smokers. Those people took an online survey including questions about their education, income, smoking habits, TV habits and more.

The researchers also measured the effects of the "Tips From Former Smokers" campaign by asking the study participants if they attempted to quit smoking, talk to loved ones about the dangers of smoking, visited a smoking cessation website or called the hotline on the campaign materials. About three months after the campaign ended, the participants took a follow-up survey.

The researchers found that 78 percent of the smokers had seen a "Tips" commercial on television, and even more came across the advertisements on billboards, online, on the radio or in print.

Furthermore, the number of smokers reporting an attempt to quit smoking increased 12 percent from before the campaign started. Of the smokers who quit during the campaign, 13 percent had not smoked during the three months between the campaign and the follow-up survey.

Using this data, the researchers estimated that an additional 1.64 million US smokers attempted to quit smoking during the "Tips" campaign. Of that group, 220,000 had not smoked three months later. The researchers estimate that about half of those people, or about 100,000, will quit smoking for good.

The researchers concluded that the success of this campaign shows that large mass-media advertising can be effective in encouraging smokers to quit the habit, thus saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

"Our results show the effectiveness and public health outcomes of a national campaign using hard­hitting messages delivered in emotional, graphic personal stories," the researchers wrote.

The research was published online on September 9 in The Lancet.

The study was funded by the CDC and the US Department of Health and Human Services. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
September 6, 2013