Exposure to national tobacco education campaign increased intentions to quit smoking, study finds

Graphic, testimonial-style advertisements heightened odds of quitting

A cigarette butt

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – A national tobacco education campaign, launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, featuring graphic, testimonial-style advertisements increased intentions to quit smoking, according to a study by RTI International.

The study, published in Health Education Research, found that the more often smokers saw the campaign ads, the higher their intentions to quit smoking within 30 days and within six months. Exposure to the campaign also was associated with significant changes in beliefs about smoking-related risks and increased worries about health.

"Effects of the campaign showed consistency with previous research indicating that graphic, emotional advertisements are more likely to motivate smokers to try to quit smoking," said Jennifer Duke, Ph.D., senior research public health analyst at RTI and coauthor of the study. "These findings provide insight into the potential pathways through which the campaign motivated smokers to attempt to quit."

Researchers surveyed more than 5,000 smokers in the United States before and after a 12-week airing of the campaign, and they analyzed the relationship between exposure and changes in knowledge, beliefs and intentions about quitting.

Launched in 2012, the Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign features striking, emotional, testimonial-style advertisements. The ads highlight health effects caused by smoking cigarettes that researchers predicted would influence a change in behavior.

This study adds to previous research conducted by RTI for the Tips campaign that showed the campaign was associated with substantial increases in quit attempts among smokers and was cost-effective in generating associated health benefits.

"Findings suggest that long-term influence of the campaign on U.S. smoking behaviors may be larger than the effects described in previous evaluation studies," Duke said. "Continuous airing of effective campaigns may help decrease the prevalence of smoking and reduce the burden of smoking-related death in the United States."