A recent piece of health news out of the University of Illinois says that anti-smoking commercials on TV are actually working. While some ads are more effective than others, the entire medium seems to be an effective one for helping reduce adult smoking.
Smoking cessation is a great challenge, but it can be accomplished by anyone. These commercials help in that respect, it seems, but also in smoking prevention altogether. There are a variety of anti-smoking messages on television. But until now, no research had been done on whether the ads, produced by various sponsors, impact adult smoking behaviors, or on how the ads differ.
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The new study, in the April issue of the “American Journal of Public Health,” looked at the relationship between adults’ smoking behaviors and their exposure to ads sponsored by states; by private foundations; by tobacco companies themselves; or by drug companies pushing quit-smoking products.
The researchers measured exposure to smoking-related advertisements on the top U.S. media markets from 1999 to 2007. They combined this data with individual smoking data and state tobacco-control-policy data. Into the mix they tossed factors like smoking status, intentions to quit smoking, attempts to quit in the past year, and average daily cigarette consumption.
They found less smoking and more intention to quit in markets with more state-sponsored media campaigns. Less smoking was linked to state-sponsored, private and drug company commercials. Not surprisingly, higher exposure to tobacco industry advertisements was associated with more smoking. While the cigarette company ads didn’t promote the act of smoking, the effect they had was associated with more smoking — just the line they presumably like to tiptoe across.
One surprise finding was that adults in areas with more ads for pharmaceutical cessation products were less likely to make an attempt to quit.
Overall, the research might indicate that it may not matter what you say to people; just that you’re saying it a lot. What it shows is that anti-tobacco campaigns in the U.S. meaningfully contribute to fewer U.S. adults smoking. And that is important, because we all exist in two mutually essential groups: our individual health, and our public health overall.
It is never too late to quit smoking. For each smoker, it will be individual strategies that will work. One common thread is to remove yourself from situations you associate with smoking — at least until the urge dies down. Of smokeless tobacco products, the patch has risen to the top for effectiveness. Others seem help in Chinese medicine, hypnotherapy, meditation and herbal medicine.