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Impact of a National Tobacco Education Campaign on Weekly Numbers of Quitline Calls and Website Visitors—United States, March 4–June 23, 2013

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September 20, 2013 / Vol. 62 / No. 37

MMWR Introduction


From March 4 through June 23, 2013, CDC aired the second in a series of national paid-media tobacco education campaigns encouraging adult smokers to quit. The Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) campaign features testimonials from former smokers who are living with serious smoking-related diseases. The 2013 campaign included advertising on television, digital (on-line), radio, print, billboards, transit venues, and social media. To assess the preliminary impact of the 2013 Tips campaign, CDC analyzed the numbers of weekly calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW, a national quitline portal operated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which routes callers to their state quitlines, and the numbers of weekly unique visitors to the Tips campaign website during the 16-week campaign and the four weeks immediately preceding and following the campaign.

The analysis found that average weekly call volume and average weekly unique visitors increased by 75% and almost 38 fold, respectively, compared to the four weeks before the campaign, and then decreased by 41% and 96% after the campaign ended. This suggests that the campaign is responsible for an additional 151,536 quitline calls and almost 2.8 million additional unique Tips website visitors compared to what would have occurred had calls and visitors continued at their pre-campaign levels.

During the first 12 weeks of the campaign, national television ads were placed using a "pulsing" strategy which involved airing them on a one-week-on, one-week-off basis. Quitline call volume was 38% less during the six weeks when the national television ads were off-air, compared with the six weeks when these are running.

These results confirm that emotionally evocative tobacco education media campaigns can increase quitline calls and website visits, but also suggest that the effect of these campaigns deceases rapidly once they are discontinued. These findings underscore the public health importance of sustaining hard-hitting media campaigns over time, and suggest that the Tips campaign could have an even greater impact on quitline calls and website visits if national television ads ran continuously over a longer duration.