Anti-smoking TV spots may help people quit
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The ill effects of cigarette advertising are well known. Now, researchers in the UK report that anti-smoking television spots might be effective in helping people quit.
The study by the UK's Health Development Agency (HDA), formerly called the Health Education Authority, ran a television advertising campaign in three areas with high smoking rates.
The commercials featured the actor and comedian John Cleese of Monty Python fame, talking about the risks of smoking and provided tips on quitting. Most ads used morbid humor to highlight the dangers of smoking and ``show the ridiculousness of the smoking habit,'' explain Dominic McVey, of the HDA in London, and colleague Dr. John Stapleton, of the Institute of Psychiatry in London.
The researchers interviewed more than 2,000 smokers and non-smokers before the ads ran and again 6 and 18 months later. After 18 months, nearly 10% of smokers had quit and only 4.3% of former smokers had relapsed, according to the report published in Tobacco Control.
Smokers and former-smokers were about 50% more likely not to smoke if they viewed the ads compared with people who lived in regions that did not air the commercials.
The researchers estimate that anti-smoking television commercials could lower the rate of smoking by about 1%, enough to have ``a major impact on reducing smoking-related diseases.''
The results support the UK government's recent decision to fund anti-smoking television campaigns, the authors note. ``In the UK, smoking is responsible for (about) one million cancer and heart disease deaths every 10 years,'' the report indicates.
``Although the dangers of smoking have been known for many years, governments have been slow to react and counter the problem with the type of resources and legislation frequently brought to bear on other, far less devastating, public health problems,'' McVey and Stapleton write.
``The old maxim that prevention is better than cure seems not to have been heeded in relation to diseases caused by smoking,'' the authors add.