Mass. State Anti-Smoking Efforts Successful - Study
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Massachusetts' 7-year-old anti-smoking campaign featuring hard-hitting advertisements, treatment programs and other efforts has succeeded in reducing the state's smoking rates below the national average, researchers said on Friday.
``The smoking prevalence (among adults over 18) in Massachusetts is now about 19 or 20 percent, while the smoking prevalence for 40 other states is about 24 percent,'' study author Lois Biener of the University of Massachusetts in Boston said.
What had been a steady decline in overall U.S. smoking rates leveled off after 1993, but it continued to trend downward in Massachusetts. The state has spent more money -- $6.50 per capita -- on tobacco control than any place in the world, the study said.
``We've shown that a televised anti-smoking campaign has been very effective with youth, especially younger kids who were 12 or 13 at the start'' of the campaign, which was launched in 1993, Biener said in a telephone interview.
``When you look at peoples' reactions to individual ads, the ads evoking negative emotions like fear or sadness, or that tend to portray real individuals who have suffered illness, a lost loved one, or that graphically portray the effect of smoking, were the most effective,'' she said.
``Ads that try to be funny or reassuring are less effective,'' she added.
Of the more than $200 million Massachusetts has spent on the effort since beginning the campaign, about one-third has been spent on advertising; 40 percent went to local treatment programs to help smokers quit, counseling programs and educational materials; and the remainder was granted to local boards of health to develop and enforce tobacco control laws.
The study acknowledged some impact on smoking rates from the state's 25-cent-per-pack surtax on cigarettes levied to fund the program.
Based on estimates that smoking-related illnesses result in $2.4 billion in medical costs each year, or about $600 for each resident, the campaign was a relative bargain by saving an estimated $85 million in health care costs annually, the researchers said.
Biener said the campaign had to counter the influence of tobacco industry advertising, and she noted countries that have banned tobacco advertising altogether have also successfully cut smoking rates.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal and presented ahead of the 11th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, a gathering of 4,000 tobacco opponents to be held in Chicago next week.