'Tips From Smokers' Campaign Beat Expectations
Real-life depictions of tobacco's devastating health consequences moved many Americans to quit, study found
"The study makes it clear that a sustained, hard-hitting campaign is effective and still needed," said Thomas Glynn, director of cancer science and trends for the American Cancer Society. "A campaign like this, that is both graphic and educational, drives home the fact that tobacco use is something that causes real, sustained pain."
A national smoking-cessation helpline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) experienced a 132 percent increase in calls during the campaign, with 200,000 more calls than were recorded for the same period in 2011, according to the CDC study.
Nonsmokers also appear to have been prompted to take action. The rate of nonsmokers who urged friends or family to quit smoking nearly doubled, from 2.6 percent prior to the campaign to 5.1 percent after the campaign ended. More nonsmokers also reported talking with friends or family about the dangers of smoking, increasing from nearly 32 percent prior to the campaign to about 35 percent afterward.
To craft the campaign, the CDC consulted with health officials who had run prior campaigns in cities, states and other countries, McAfee said.
But the best advice came from about 10,000 smokers who were consulted while the CDC designed the campaign about what would make the most impact.
"What we heard from them was the thing that would be most motivating would be real stories from real smokers about the harm smoking had done to them," McAfee said.
The CDC will continue the campaign, using new testimonials to keep the message fresh. The agency already broadcast a sequel campaign that ran from March to June 2013.
"We would love to continue to do this," McAfee said. "We're doing it three months out of the year because that's basically the money we have. In other countries, they've done year-round campaigns."
The study noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans to launch a similar anti-tobacco campaign in 2014 targeting teenagers and young adults.
Nonprofit anti-tobacco groups like the American Cancer Society also might take the lessons from the CDC campaign and use them in their own ad efforts, Glynn said. It is likely, however, that only a coalition of several or many groups would be able to have the same impact as the CDC campaign.