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New Study Shows State Anti-Tobacco Ads Reduce Youth Smoking And Should Spur States to Increase Funding for Tobacco Prevention

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
July 04, 2005

Washington, DC — A new peer-reviewed study published in the July issue of the journal Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine provides compelling new evidence that state-sponsored anti-tobacco advertising works to prevent kids from smoking and change their attitudes toward tobacco. This rigorously conducted study involved more than 51,000 students in the 75 largest U.S. media markets. It found that youth exposed to state anti-tobacco ads are less likely to smoke, think they will smoke in the future or believe their friends smoke and are more likely to perceive that smoking is addictive and harmful.

These results are particularly persuasive because they control for other influences on smoking behavior such as cigarette prices, public smoking restrictions and other tobacco-related advertising. In addition to the mountain of evidence that already exists, this new study demonstrates once again that funding tobacco prevention programs is a wise investment that will reduce smoking, save lives, and save money by reducing smoking-related health care costs. It should convince legislators and governors that anti-tobacco advertising campaigns are a key component of these programs in order to counter the more than $34 million a day the tobacco industry spends to market its deadly products in the U.S.

This growing evidence that tobacco prevention programs work, together with the fact that states are collecting record amounts of tobacco-generated revenue, makes it inexcusable that so few states are adequately funding tobacco prevention programs. Currently only three states - Maine, Delaware and Mississippi - fund tobacco prevention programs at minimum levels recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Gov. Haley Barbour has been seeking to eliminate funding for Mississippi’s highly successful program. Over the past three years, states have cut funding for tobacco prevention by 28 percent and in fiscal year 2005 spent less than a third of what the CDC recommends (the CDC recommends minimum annual spending of $1.6 billion for the states combined, while the states planned to spend only $538 million). State spending on tobacco prevention amounted to less than three percent of the record $20 billion in revenue states collected from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes. It is only right that states spend more of their tobacco money on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. We know these programs work and states have plenty of tobacco money revenue to get the job done. There is no excuse for their failure to do more.

The CDC recommends that each state implement a comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation program that includes public awareness media campaigns, school and community education programs, enforcement of laws regarding tobacco sales to minors, and programs to help smokers quit. The CDC funding guidelines for each state are based on several factors, including demographic data and rates of tobacco use. The CDC also recommends that the states implement these programs in conjunction with other scientifically proven measures to reduce tobacco use, including high tobacco taxes and smoke-free workplace laws.

The new study used Nielsen television ratings data to measure the exposure of 12-17 year olds to anti-tobacco advertising in the 75 largest media markets. Researchers merged this information with data from the government’s annual Monitoring the Future survey, which measures youth smoking rates and attitudes. They found that students from media markets with higher exposure to state-sponsored anti-tobacco ads were significantly less likely to have smoked in the past 30 days than students from markets with no or lower exposure. Additionally, students who had greater exposure to state-sponsored anti-tobacco ads were significantly less likely to report that their friends were smokers, were more likely to perceive the harms of smoking, and were more likely to report that they definitely would not be smoking in five years.

The study was conducted by researchers from Bridging the Gap, a policy research program based at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and the University of Michigan. The National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the study.

The new study is consistent with the success of states with well-funded tobacco prevention programs. Maine, with the nation’s best-funded tobacco prevention program, reduced smoking by 48 percent among high school students and 59 percent among middle school students between 1997, when it launched its tobacco prevention program, and 2003. Studies show California’s pioneering program, started in 1990, has helped save tens of thousands of lives by reducing smoking-caused heart disease, lung cancer and other diseases. Studies also show California and Massachusetts, before recent cuts in their programs, have saved as much as $3 in smoking-caused health costs for every dollar spent on tobacco prevention.

Tobacco use remains the nation’s leading preventable cause of death, killing more than 400,000 people every year and costing the nation more than $160 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity. While our nation has reduced high school smoking rates by 40 percent since 1997, 22 percent of high school students still smoke, and another 2,000 kids become regular smokers every day. The evidence is clear that anti-smoking advertising campaigns and other tobacco prevention measures work to reduce smoking, save lives and save money. What’s needed is the political will to enact these proven solutions.