05 Mar Anti-Smoking Ads in U.S., Britain Inspire Hundreds of Thousands to Quit
Anti-smoking campaigns are coordinated public health efforts designed to deter cigarette use in people who don’t currently smoke and/or to encourage current smokers to participate in some form of smoking cessation. Two recent studies, published in the journals The Lancet and Drug and Alcohol Dependence investigated the effectiveness of nationwide anti-smoking efforts conducted in the U.S. and in Great Britain. The results gathered from both of these studies support the ability of such campaigns to significantly deter or reduce smoking in the general public.
Habitual smokers are known to have significantly increased risks for a range of serious, frequently fatal health problems, including lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (emphysema and chronic bronchitis), strokes and heart disease. Smokers also have increased chances of experiencing non-fatal changes in lung and respiratory health, as well as increased chances of giving birth to underweight babies. Despite these facts, nearly one out of every five adult Americans (roughly 19 percent) smokes cigarettes. As a rule, the primary underlying reason for ongoing participation in such a clearly unhealthy activity is addiction to nicotine, a substance that occurs naturally in cultivated tobacco.
According to figures compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of smoking adults want to stop using tobacco/nicotine. Statistically speaking, young smokers between the ages of 18 and 24 have the greatest chance of quitting smoking at least temporarily. Conversely, the smallest statistical chance of quitting at least temporarily occurs among adults at or over the age of 65.
Results in the U.S.
In a study published in December 2013 in the journal The Lancet, researchers from RTI International and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined the effectiveness of Tips (Tips From Former Smokers), a nationwide anti-smoking campaign conducted in the U.S. for three months in the spring and summer of 2013. This campaign focused on television ads that featured adults seriously harmed by cigarette use.
After analyzing the results from a selected group of 3,051 smokers and 2,220 non-smokers, the researchers concluded that active efforts to quit smoking among the smokers who saw at least one Tips commercial increased by 12 percent. They also concluded that non-smokers who saw at least one Tips commercial encouraged their cigarette-using family members and peers to stop smoking about twice as often as non-smokers who did not see a Tips commercial. On a nationwide level, the researchers credit the Tips campaign for 1.64 million attempts to quit smoking and 220,000 cases of successful smoking abstinence. They also credit Tips for a total of anywhere from 330,000 to 500,000 years of increased life expectancy among Americans.
Results in Great Britain
In a study published in February 2014 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from four British institutions and one Dutch institution examined the effectiveness of Stoptober, a nationwide anti-smoking campaign conducted in Great Britain in October 2012. This campaign included TV ads, radio ads, press releases, general Internet ads and ads posted on the popular social media sites Twitter and Facebook. The researchers made their assessments by comparing the national rate of smoking cessation attempts in each month between 2007 and the start of Stoptober to the national rate of attempts during the monthlong campaign. They concluded that, compared to the monthly rate of smoking cessation attempts between 2007 and 2011, smoking cessation attempts during Stoptober increased by about 79 percent. They also concluded that, compared to the other months in 2012, cessation attempts during Stoptober increased by about 50 percent. The researchers credit Stoptober for 350,000 attempts to quit smoking and a total of 10,400 years of increased life expectancy among Britons.
Significance and Considerations
The authors of both the U.S. and British studies believe that nationwide anti-smoking campaigns clearly produce substantial benefits for the public in general and smokers in particular. The U.S. researchers particularly note the fact the regular nationwide campaigns could produce even greater levels of benefit and help support international goals to deter or reduce smoking participation. The British and Dutch researchers particularly note the usefulness of designing anti-smoking campaigns that focus on clear, relatively straightforward behavioral changes and use sophisticated psychological techniques to change the minds of people who smoke.
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