First Federally-Funded National Anti-Smoking Campaign Motivated 1.6 Million Smokers to Attempt to Quit

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The first federally funded national anti-smoking media campaign, called Tips From Former Smokers, motivated 1.6 million smokers to attempt to quit, and researchers estimate at least 100,000 people will remain smoke-free, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and RTI International.

The $54 million, three-month campaign, delivered by the CDC, used a series of evocative television advertisements showing former smokers living with smoking-caused disabilities and health conditions. The campaign also included print advertisements as well as radio and online advertising, to draw attention to the dangers of smoking. The CDC also publicized a national smoking cessation hotline and provided online resources to help smokers interested in quitting.

“We found that a high percentage of the U.S. population of smokers and nonsmokers was exposed to the Tips campaign and that it was responsible for a significant increase in quit attempts among smokers nationwide,” said Kevin Davis, a senior research economist at RTI and the study’s co-author. This study represents the first evidence on the effectiveness of the Tips campaign. “Given the brief duration of the Tips campaign, this study also demonstrates that such campaigns can have relatively rapid effects on smoking cessation which is historically viewed as a slower-changing outcome that responds to longer-term antismoking campaigns.”

The study authors analyzed results taken from a randomly selected, nationally representative survey of more than 5,000 people, more than half of whom were smokers. Based on the findings, published in The Lancet on Sept. 9, the study authors estimate that 1.6 million smokers were motivated by the Tips campaign to make a quit attempt and 220,000 remained smoke-free at a three-month follow-up. The researchers estimate that of those, 100,000 will remain smoke free.  

Additionally, the study showed that the campaign had a positive effect on nonsmokers. Due to the campaign, more than 4.7 million nonsmokers recommended a smoking cessation service to a smoker and more than 6 million people discussed the hazards of smoking with family or friends.

According to the CDC, tobacco use causes more than 5 million deaths per year, with more than 8 million deaths predicted annually by the year 2030. The findings from this study suggest that similar campaigns may be replicable in other large countries that are facing major tobacco epidemics.

“Although antismoking media campaigns have been successful at national levels in other smaller countries and at the state-level within the U.S., our study is the first evidence on the effects of a national adult-focused cessation campaign in a very large country,” Davis said. “Our findings provide strong evidence that similar antismoking campaigns can be effectively scaled to the national level in large countries.”