CDC’s Anti-Smoking Ad Campaign Spurred Over 100,000 Smokers to Quit; Media Campaigns Must be Expanded Nationally and in the States

Statement of Susan M. Liss, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Sep. 9 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – Year one of the federal government’s “Tips from Former Smokers” national advertising campaign exceeded all expectations, driving 1.6 million smokers to try to quit and helping more than 100,000 to succeed, according to a study published today in the medical journal The Lancet. The 2012 campaign, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also inspired millions of nonsmokers to encourage friends and family members to quit smoking. Researchers estimated that, by quitting, former smokers added more than a third of a million years of life to the U.S. population. The Tips campaign was the first ever federally-funded national media campaign aimed at reducing smoking.

This study provides powerful, real-world evidence that media campaigns work, they reduce smoking and they save lives. They are also cost-effective investments that can help reduce tobacco-related health care costs, which total $96 billion a year in the United States.

The CDC’s campaign was highly successful despite lasting only three months and costing only $54 million – less than 0.7 percent of the $8.8 billion the tobacco industry spends annually to market its deadly and addictive products. To win the fight against tobacco, we need more media campaigns like this, both nationally and in the states. Fortunately, the CDC recognizes this and conducted a second round of its campaign earlier this year. Similar national campaigns must be continued and expanded in the future.

It is also critical that the states increase funding for media campaigns as part of a comprehensive program to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. The states collect nearly $26 billion a year in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but spend less than two percent of it – $459.5 million in fiscal year 2013 – on programs to reduce tobacco use, including media campaigns. They have cut funding for such programs by 36 percent in recent years.

To counter the marketing barrage of the tobacco industry and accelerate smoking declines in the U.S., both the federal government and the states must increase and sustain their commitment to fighting tobacco use, including with media campaigns. Campaigns to reduce smoking must be as aggressive and year-round as the tobacco industry’s promotion of its deadly products.

The success of the CDC’s media campaign also illustrates the value of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was created by the health care reform law and provided funding for the campaign. It underscores the public health fund’s enormous potential to improve health and reduce health care costs in the U.S.

The new study adds to the already substantial scientific evidence that mass media campaigns prevent children from smoking and help smokers quit, saving lives and health care dollars. Public health authorities including the Surgeon General, the National Cancer Institute, the Institute of Medicine and the CDC have all examined the evidence and concluded that these campaigns work.

States that have conducted extensive media campaigns as part of their tobacco prevention programs – including California, Florida, New York and Washington – have reduced smoking rates faster and to lower levels than the nation as a whole. Florida recently reported that its high school smoking rate fell to 8.6 percent in 2013, far below most states and the entire nation (the national rate was 15.8 percent in the most recent equivalent national survey, conducted in 2011). If every state reduced youth smoking to the same low rate as Florida, there would be 1.6 million fewer youth smokers in the U.S.

Research indicates the most effective anti-smoking media campaigns evoke strong emotions and realistically depict the terrible health consequences of tobacco use – just as the CDC ads do. We applaud the CDC for its strong leadership in the fight against tobacco use. We also thank the courageous former smokers who shared their heartbreaking health struggles with the entire country, telling the harsh truth about how devastating and unglamorous cigarette smoking truly is.

While the U.S. has made enormous progress in reducing smoking, tobacco use remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year. Media campaigns are an essential tool in winning the fight against the tobacco epidemic.

Smokers can get help in quitting by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting www.smokefree.gov.