CDC’s Powerful Ads Motivate Smokers to Get Help Quitting

August 30, 2012

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that its unprecedented anti-smoking ad campaign — Tips from Former Smokers (TIPS) — motivated hundreds of thousands of smokers to seek help quitting.

The 12-week campaign, which ended June 10, featured the real stories of former smokers who are suffering the debilitating health effects of their tobacco use.

The ads let smokers know that quitting assistance is available by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which links callers to their state tobacco quitlines, or visiting www.smokefree.gov, a federal website. The campaign generated huge increases both in quitline calls and website visits:

  • The quitline received a total of 365,194 calls during the TIPS campaign, a 132 percent increase — or 207,519 additional calls — compared to the same period in 2011.
  • The website received 629,898 unique visitors during the TIPS campaign, a 428 percent increase — or 510,571 additional unique visitors — compared to the same 2011 period.
  • Altogether, there were 718,090 additional calls and unique website visitors during the TIPS campaign.

While the CDC campaign was a big step forward, it still pales in comparison to the more than $10 billion a year the tobacco companies spend to market their deadly and addictive products. The CDC campaign cost $54 million — less than what the tobacco companies spend on marketing in just two days.

The CDC campaign adds to the already powerful evidence that tobacco prevention and cessation programs, including media campaigns, work.

The CDC’s conclusion: 'The increase indicates that many smokers are interested in quit¬ting and in finding out more about cessation assistance, and will respond to motivational messages that include an offer of help. This analysis provides additional evidence that, within the context of comprehensive tobacco control efforts, tobacco education media campaigns are an important intervention for increasing cessation.'

These campaigns must be well-funded and sustained over time, both nationally and in each state. It is encouraging that the CDC has said it plans another round of similar ads next year.