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How effective are anti-smoking mass media campaigns in England in reducing smoking, second-hand smoke exposure and smoking-related disease?

Anti-smoking mass media campaigns involve communicating through television, radio, newpapers, or other channels to reach large numbers of smokers to encourage them to quit smoking, or to protect non-smokers from the harmful effects of cigarette smoke. This MRC funded study has been investigating how effective UK mass media campaigns, since 2004, have been in achieving these goals. We aimed to determine what types of campaign are most effective and cost-effective, in terms of their effects on immediate outcomes such as making a quit attempt or phoning a quit line, and in terms of longer term outcomes such as what proportion of people in the English population smoke.


This work is funded by the Medical Research Council's National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI). Funding from Action on Smoking and Health is also greatly appreciated.

Published Research

We started by looking at the effect of the freeze in spending on mass media campaigns in 2010. There was a sharp reduction in quit line calls, web hits on the smoke-free site, and requests for quit kits at the time of the freeze.

The freeze on mass-media campaigns in England

We then described the characteristics of the recent campaigns in England (2004 to 2010) and compared them with the current evidence on what types of campaign are most effective: The results highlighted that mass media campaigns in England during this period contained a wide variety of content including both positive (how to quit) and negative (mostly health consequences) messages. In most months however there were fewer than 4 exposures to tobacco control campaigns per head which, from the existing literature, suggests that the intensity of campaigns has not always been sufficient to maximise their effectiveness.

Characterizing tobacco control mass media campaigns in England

We then examined the impact of campaigns, and different types of campaigns, on a range of smoking outcomes including recall of campaigns, calls to the quit line, and prevalence and cigarette consumption.

We showed that campaigns have contributed to reducing smoking prevalence and reducing cigarette consumption. Though it is challenging to disentangle the contribution of mass media campaigns from the effects of other tobacco control policies and initiatives, we estimated that between 2002 and 2009, 11.2% of the decline in cigarette consumption and 13.5% of the decline in smoking prevalence was attributable to the impact of tobacco control mass media campaigns.

Effectiveness of tobacco control television advertising in changing tobacco use in England

Different types of campaign effect different outcomes, but overall our results showed that having a mixture of campaigns, with positive (how to quit) and negative (mostly health consequences) messages, has been effective over recent years in changing smoking behaviours in England.

This research has now been published:
Impact of tobacco control advertising content on campaign recall.
How does the emotive content of mass media campaigns influence calls to the NHS stop smoking helpline.
Effectiveness of tobacco control television advertising with different types of emotional content.

Current research

We are currently exploring the effects of campaigns on smoking in the home.

This research is being carried out jointly by University of Nottingham, University of Bath and King's College London

More Information:

Professor Sarah Lewis
Clinical Sciences Building, City Hospital
Nottingham, NG5 1PB

Phone: 0115 823 1387
Email: sarah.lewis@nottingham.ac.uk

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