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One cigarette is one too many: evaluating a light smoker-targeted media campaign


Background Light smokers represent an increasing share of adult smokers in various parts of the world including New York City (NYC). Since 2007, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has aired hard-hitting antitobacco media campaigns paired with time-limited nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) giveaways. We evaluated an original antitobacco media campaign, developed to increase awareness of smoking risks and encourage cessation service use among light smokers in NYC.

Methods We compared cessation service request volume during the campaign to historical periods without ads targeting light smokers. We used a cross-sectional online panel survey to assess the ad's perceived effectiveness and its impact on learning something new, quit intentions and concern for smoking-related health risks among non-daily, light daily and heavy daily smokers.

Results The proportion of light smokers among smokers requesting cessation services increased 50% (from 13% to 20%) relative to previous time-limited NRT giveaways. Compared to heavy daily smokers, non-daily (aOR: 1.95, p<0.05) and light daily (aOR: 2.27, p<0.05) smokers were more likely to express increased concern about smoking-related health risks after viewing the ad. Perceived effectiveness of the ad did not differ by smoker type.

Conclusions This study provides evidence that light smokers were receptive to a targeted antitobacco message encouraging use of cessation services. The campaign appears to have been particularly effective in increasing smoking-related health concerns in this group. The lack of difference in perceived ad effectiveness by smoker type suggests the potential to develop such ads without sacrificing broad impact.

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