The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today has taken a critical step to reinvigorate the fight against tobacco use – the nation's leading preventable cause of death – by launching the government's first-ever paid, nationwide media campaign to encourage smokers to quit and prevent children from starting to smoke.
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids applauds U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) for his leadership in making this life-saving campaign possible. This campaign is being funded through the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was championed by Senator Harkin and is included in the health care reform law. Senator Harkin, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), is a true leader in improving our nation's health and protecting our children from tobacco addiction.
The CDC's unprecedented campaign is a smart investment that will save lives and save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. The evidence is clear: Effective mass media campaigns reduce youth tobacco use and encourage smokers to quit.
Research has found that the most effective media campaigns evoke strong emotions and realistically depict the devastating health consequences of tobacco use – just as these new ads do. Importantly, these ads offer smokers encouragement and help in quitting by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting www.smokefree.gov.
The tobacco industry spends $10.5 billion a year – more than one million dollars every hour – to entice kids, keep smokers hooked and glamorize their deadly and addictive products. The CDC's campaign will tell the harsh truth about how devastating and unglamorous cigarette smoking truly is.
There is an urgent need for this media campaign. While the nation has made enormous progress in reducing tobacco use, smoking declines have leveled off in recent years as states have slashed funding for tobacco prevention programs and the tobacco industry has continued its aggressive marketing. Tobacco use kills 443,000 Americans and costs the nation $96 billion in health care bills each year. A large portion of these costs are passed on to taxpayers through programs such as Medicaid.
Just last week, the latest U.S. Surgeon General's report found that youth smoking is still a "pediatric epidemic," driven by tobacco industry marketing that lures children to begin and continue using tobacco. Coming nearly 50 years after the 1964 Surgeon General's report first alerted the nation to the deadly consequences of smoking, the CDC's media campaign is a long-overdue step toward ending the tobacco epidemic.
Background: Evidence that Media Campaigns Work
Substantial scientific evidence and results from numerous states show that mass media campaigns reduce the number of children who start smoking and increase the number of smokers who 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.
The new Surgeon General's report, released last week, concluded, "Evidence indicates that mass media campaigns can be one of the most effective strategies in changing social norms and preventing youth smoking." The report also found "strong evidence that media ads designed for adults also decrease the prevalence of smoking among youth."
A comprehensive 2008 scientific review by the National Cancer Institute concluded that "advertisements that arouse strong negative emotions perform better than those that do not. These advertisements tend to depict serious harm done by smoking or secondhand smoke in an authentic way…."
These conclusions are supported by results from states, including California, Florida, New York and Washington, that have conducted extensive media campaigns as part of their successful tobacco prevention and cessation programs. These states have reduced smoking rates far faster, and to lower levels, than the nation as a whole, and the evidence shows that media campaigns have helped drive these declines.
Nationally, research found that Legacy's truth® campaign, targeted at young people, was directly responsible for keeping 450,000 teens from starting to smoke during its first four years.
There is also growing evidence that tobacco prevention and cessation programs – including media campaigns – save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. A December 2011 study found that in the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, which included mass media, Washington State saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent.