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NLM Director’s Comments Transcript
Successful Quit Smoking Campaign: 11/19/2012

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D. senior staff National Library of Medicine for Donald Lindberg, M.D, the Director of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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A research-based, quit-smoking, advertising campaign increased interest in smoking cessation information and may provide a template to improve future public health promotional efforts, describes a perspective recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

More specifically, during the 2012 Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) anti-smoking campaign, more than 207,000 additional calls were received by the CDC’s toll-free phone line -- compared to the same three month period in 2011. The CDC’s toll-free line is 1-800-IQuit.

Similarly during the same CDC campaign, a federal quit-smoking website received about 511,000 visits, or three times the traffic the website obtained during the same period in 2011. A link to the smokefree.gov website is available in the ‘start here’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s quitting smoking health topic page.

The authors write (and we quote): ‘The campaign’s goal was to prompt smokers to try to quit and to build awareness of free government resources for smoking cessation’ (end of quote). The authors add the response to the campaign exceeded the expectations of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. The $54 million CDC anti-smoking program was called Tips from Former Smokers and occurred from mid-March to mid-June, 2012.

The authors explain the CDC, as well as other federal agencies and private organizations provide anti-smoking information and campaigns on a regular basis. The authors acknowledge it is difficult to assess the impact of one campaign because of the residual impact from the others. The authors note anti-smoking campaigns are intended to offset the $27 million spent daily on advertising and marketing by tobacco companies.

However, the authors suggest the CDC’s 2012 $54 million campaign generated more public response because of diverse exposure and a well-tailored, research-derived, series of messages.

Regarding increased exposure, the authors explain the campaign used diverse media platforms to boost public awareness. The 2012 CDC anti-smoking campaign featured 30-second television and radio advertisements, coupled with parallel newspaper, magazine, and billboard advertising in English and Spanish. These legacy media efforts were supplemented by providing access to video advertisements on UTube as well as re-purposing anti-smoking information for smokers ages 18-54 on Twitter and Facebook and other social media services.

In terms of the campaign’s messages, the authors explain the 2012 CDC ads featured real people who graphically described what it was like to live with a tobacco-generated disease that resulted in personal disfigurement or disability. This decision was generated by health communication research, which suggested candid, emotional, personal testimonies with believable, non-celebrity spokespersons were highly credible to smokers.

The authors write (and we quote): ‘the intended result is to increase smokers’ sense of personal vulnerability to serious disease and increase their sense of urgency for quitting’ (end of quote). This testimonial was accompanied by the quit-smoking phone number and website, which the authors describe as simple, actionable information.

While the authors note (and we quote): ‘the success of a mass media campaign depends on its reach, intensity, and duration’ (end of quote), the authors suggest future anti-smoking campaigns might be similarly successful if advertising and promotional messages were research-derived and focused on testimonial appeals with actionable information. The authors suggest while core messages will vary according to different health conditions and intended audiences within public health campaigns, the lessons learned from the CDC’s recent success may be a template for future campaign design.

We should add anti-smoking campaigns are buttressed by the constant availability of evidence-based smoking cessation information, such as what is available within MedlinePlus.gov. For example, accompanying the aforementioned smokefree.gov website (within the ‘start here’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s quitting smoking health topic page) is a link to a more comprehensive, quitting smoking information from the American Cancer Society.

An additional resource from the American Cancer Society that provides do’s and don’ts to help you stop smoking is available in the ‘coping’ section of MedlinePlus.gov’s quitting smoking health topic page.

MedlinePlus.gov’s quitting smoking health topic page also contains links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the ‘journal articles’ section. Links to related clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the ‘clinical trials’ section. From the quitting smoking health topic page, you can sign up to receive email updates with links to new information as it becomes available on MedlinePlus.

To find MedlinePlus.gov’s quitting smoking health topic page, type ‘Quit smoking’ in the search box at the top of MedlinePlus.gov’s home page. Then, click on ‘Quitting smoking (National Library of Medicine).’ Links to health topic pages devoted to smoking, and substance abuse problems are accessible within ‘related topics’ on the right side of MedlinePlus.gov’s quitting smoking health topic page.

We trust these resources will be helpful if you decide to stop smoking, or assist a friend or family member.

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A disclaimer – the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider. I want to take the opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season and a healthy New Year. The National Library of Medicine and the 'Director's Comments' podcast staff, including Dr. Lindberg, appreciate your interest and company – and we hope to find new ways to serve you in 2012.

I look forward to meeting you here next week.