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First Government-Funded Campaign to Stop Smoking Helps Over 100,000 People to Quit

Update Date: Sep 09, 2013 10:05 AM EDT

Within the United States, smoking is the number one cause of preventable deaths. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking kills over 440,000 people every year. Due to the many health complications that arise from smoking, programs and campaigns have been created with the goals of helping people quit and preventing others from starting. One of these programs called Tips, which came out of a former smokers campaign, proved that these programs could be extremely effective. In a new study, researchers found that Tips, which was the first ever federally funded campaign in the U.S. was effective in helping at least 100,000 smokers quit the habit.

For this study, the research team examined the effects of the program, which aired a series of television advertisements in combination with print, radio and online ads. The program aimed to educate people about the dangers of smoking and provided smokers with telephone helplines and other resources that could help them quit. Between March 2012 and June 2012, the U.S. allotted $54 million federal funds to this initiative. The research team, headed by Dr. Tim McAfee, the director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health in Atlanta, GA reviewed results from a survey that involved over 5000 people. The participants were considered to be nationally representative and were surveyed before and after the campaign. 3051 of them were smokers while 2220 were not.

The research team found that 78.5 percent of the smokers surveyed reported to seeing at least one of the TV ads from Tips when they were run within the three-month span. 73.5 percent of nonsmokers had also seen at least one of the TV ads from the initiative. The researchers calculated that within that time span, there was a 12 percent relative increase in the rate of smokers who attempted to quit. The percentage rose from 31.1 percent to 34.8 percent. The researchers discovered that 13.4 percent of the smokers who quit the habit did not start smoking again during the follow-up period of the study.

The researchers also noted that during the program, there was a 132 percent increase in the amount of calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Based on this data, the researchers were able to estimate the full-effects of the Tips program. They calculated that 1.6 million smokers attempted to quit during the campaign. Of that number, over 200,000 were most likely no longer smoking during the follow-up period. The researchers then estimated that over 100,000 of them were able to stop smoking completely in the long term.

"The campaign saved lives and was cost-effective. The growth in smokers who quit, and stayed quit, after the Tips campaign added over a third of a million years of life to the USA population in total. These strong findings show a clear public health benefit and the need to sustain campaigns like Tips," MaAfee said. "Sustaining progress in tobacco control will require persistent hard-hitting advertisements, effective policy and regulatory interventions, and health-care leadership to help millions of smokers live longer, healthier lives."

The team also found that the campaign was beneficial to nonsmokers as well. During the campaign, the researchers discovered that the percentage of nonsmokers who advised family or friends to quit increased from 2.6 percent to 5.1 percent. The rate of nonsmokers who stated that they talked to family and friends about the health dangers involved with smoking also increased from 31.9 percent to 35.2 percent.

Due to the successes of this program, the researchers hope that other programs will follow suit and find even more ways of helping people quit. The study was published in The Lancet.

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