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CDC Ads Motivate More Smokers to Try to Quit

September 23, 2013

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that year one of its “Tips from Former Smokers” advertising campaign exceeded all expectations. The 2012 campaign drove 1.6 million smokers to try to quit and helped more than 100,000 to quit for good, according to a study in the medical journal The Lancet.

Initial results published in a CDC report show that the campaign’s second round, conducted this year from March 4 through June 23, was also a big success. It produced more than 150,000 additional calls to 1-800-QUIT NOW, a hotline to help smokers trying to quit, and generated almost 2.8 million additional visitors to the campaign website, which includes information on how to quit smoking.

These figures represent a 75 percent increase in call volume and a nearly 38-fold increase in unique website visitors, compared to the four weeks before the campaign, according to the CDC.

This year, national television ads were “pulsed,” with ads running on a 1-week-on, 1-week-off basis for the first 12 weeks of the campaign. According to the CDC report, weekly calls to the telephone quitline fell substantially when the ads were off the air and when the campaign ended.

These findings “highlight the even greater impact these campaigns might have if they were sustained at a high intensity for a longer time,” the CDC’s report found.

The CDC’s report is further confirmation that the Tips campaign, and media campaigns in general, are very effective at motivating smokers to quit. It also shows why these campaigns must be expanded and sustained over time to counter the $8.8 billion a year the tobacco companies spend to market their deadly and addictive products.

The 2013 Tips campaign motivated millions of smokers to try to quit despite lasting just 16 weeks and costing just $48 million – about what the tobacco companies spend in two days.

As Danny McGoldrick, our Vice President for Research, told HealthDay, “Imagine what such campaigns could accomplish if they were better funded and lasted year-round. It is encouraging that the CDC plans to conduct a third round of the campaign next year. The states must also do their part by using more of the nearly $26 billion a year they collect from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes to fund tobacco prevention programs, including media campaigns.”