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NAQC Newsroom: Tobacco Control

Talking Points for States and Media Memo on CDC Ad Campaign

Thursday, March 15, 2012  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov

We wanted to share two tools we have developed for use with the CDC national media campaign: 1) talking points to defend STATE program funding in light of the national campaign; 2) a media memo that can be shared with local media in support of the campaign.

Talking Points on State Funding

Clearly, some enemies of tobacco control will try to argue for cuts to state tobacco prevention since there is now a national media campaign. We wanted to share the talking points below for use in rebutting this ridiculous line of reasoning.

The CDC’s national media campaign is an important complement to – and not a replacement for – state and local efforts to reduce tobacco use. To keep making progress against tobacco – the nation’s number one cause of preventable death – all levels of government must step up efforts to implement proven strategies. At the state and local level, these include higher tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free air laws and well-funded tobacco prevention and cessation programs that include mass media campaigns. The recently released 2012 Surgeon General’s on tobacco showed that we have conclusive scientific evidence that these strategies work: They work individually and are even more effective when implemented as part of a comprehensive approach.

While the CDC media campaign is a critical step, it would be a huge mistake – and a big step backward in the fight against tobacco – if states used this as an excuse to cut back (OR CONTINUE UNDERFUNDING) on their tobacco prevention and cessation efforts:

  • The tobacco companies spend $10.5 billion a year – over one million dollars an hour – to market their deadly and addictive products. The CDC is spending just $54 million on this campaign. That means the tobacco companies spend more in two days to promote tobacco use than the CDC will be spending for this whole campaign. So the states must do their part as well to counter tobacco marketing that entices kids, discourages smokers from quitting and glamorizes tobacco use.
  • The states collect more than $25 billion in revenue from the 1998 tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but are spending less than two percent of it on tobacco prevention and cessation programs. The states have to spend more of their tobacco money on preventing kids from smoking and helping smokers quit, as many of them promised to do at the time of the settlement. Currently, the states are spending just 12.4 percent of the CDC’s recommendation for tobacco prevention.
  • The states have cut funding for tobacco prevention programs by 36 percent ($260 million) in the past four years to a total of $456.7 million – the lowest level since the tobacco settlement. It’s one of the main reasons why smoking declines have leveled off in recent years. The amount the CDC is spending on this campaign comes nowhere close to replacing the money that has been cut. The states have got to restore and increase funding for tobacco prevention.
  • It’s in the states’ financial interest to invest in tobacco prevention and cessation programs. In addition to killing 443,000 people each year, tobacco use costs the nation nearly $100 billion a year in health care bills. State taxpayers pay a big chunk of that through Medicaid and other health care costs. There is growing evidence that tobacco prevention programs not only save lives, they save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. A December 2011 study found that in the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, which included mass media, Washington State saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent. California has shown an even greater return on investment. It is truly penny-wise and pound-foolish for the states not to fund tobacco prevention programs.

We know how to win the fight against tobacco, but we won’t win it unless all levels of government do their part. The CDC has stepped up to the plate today. The states must as well.

Media Memo

This can be shared with media in your community who are reporting on the campaign. We have shared with national media outlets; feel free to customize for your use.

To: Reporters, Editorial Writers and Producers



Re: National Media Campaign Is Key Step in Fight Against Tobacco

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will launch the government’s first-ever paid, nationwide media campaign aimed at encouraging smokers to quit and preventing children from starting to smoke. It is a critical step to reinvigorate the nation’s fight against tobacco use, which remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

This memo outlines the clear need for this public education campaign; the research demonstrating that mass media campaigns are effective in reducing smoking among both youth and adults; and the growing evidence that tobacco prevention efforts not only save lives, but also save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs.

Reinvigorating the Fight Against Tobacco

There is an urgent need for this media campaign. While the nation has made enormous progress in reducing tobacco use, smoking declines have leveled off in recent years as states have slashed funding for tobacco prevention programs by 36 percent and the tobacco industry has continued its aggressive marketing.

Tobacco use kills 443,000 Americans and costs the nation nearly $96 billion in health care bills each year. A large portion of these costs are passed on to taxpayers through programs such as Medicaid.

Some 45 million adults and 3.6 million children and adolescents still smoke – and nearly 4,000 more kids take their first puff each day. Just last week, the latest Surgeon General’s report found that youth smoking is still a "pediatric epidemic,” driven by tobacco industry marketing that lures children to begin and continue using tobacco.

The tobacco industry spends $10.5 billion a year – more than a million dollars every hour – on marketing that entices kids to start using tobacco, discourages smokers from quitting and portrays its deadly and addictive products as normal and appealing. The CDC’s campaign will counter the industry’s marketing with messages that discourage kids from smoking, encourage smokers to quit and tell the harsh truth about the debilitating and deadly diseases caused by tobacco use.

The Evidence Is Clear: Media Campaigns Work

Substantial scientific evidence and results from numerous states show that mass media campaigns reduce the number of children who start smoking and increase the number of smokers who quit, saving lives and health care dollars. Public health authorities that have examined the evidence, including the Surgeon General, the National Cancer Institute, the Institute of Medicine and the CDC, have all concluded that these campaigns work.

The new Surgeon General’s report concluded, "Evidence indicates that mass media campaigns can be one of the most effective strategies in changing social norms and preventing youth smoking.” The report also found "strong evidence that media ads designed for adults also decrease the prevalence of smoking among youth.”

Research has also found that the most effective campaigns evoke strong emotions and realistically depict the devastating health consequences of tobacco use. A comprehensive 2008 scientific review by the National Cancer Institute, titled The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use, concluded, "A strong evidence base is emerging for anti-tobacco advertising, with a consensus that advertisements that arouse strong negative emotions perform better than those that do not. These advertisements tend to depict serious harm done by smoking or secondhand smoke in an authentic way….”

These conclusions are supported by results from states, including California, Florida, New York and Washington, that have conducted extensive media campaigns as part of their successful tobacco prevention and cessation programs. These states have reduced smoking rates far faster, and to lower levels, than the nation as a whole, and the evidence shows that media campaigns have helped drive these declines.

In California, hard-hitting media campaigns have been a key component of a comprehensive tobacco prevention and cessation program that has reduced adult and high school smoking rates to just 11.9 percent and 13.8 percent, while national rates are still above 19 percent. If every state had California’s current adult smoking rate, there would be 17 million fewer smokers in the United States. An evaluation of California’s media campaign concluded that it contributed to significant reductions in smoking among both youth and adults.

Similarly, New York and Florida have driven adult and youth smoking rates to well below the national average, with high school smoking rates falling to 12.6 percent in New York and 11.9 percent in Florida. Media campaigns have been major components of tobacco prevention and cessation efforts in both states.

Nationally, research found that Legacy’s truth® campaign, targeted at young people, was directly responsible for keeping 450,000 teens from starting to smoke during its first four years.

There is also growing evidence that tobacco prevention and cessation programs – including media campaigns – save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs. A December 2011 study published by the American Journal of Public Health found that in the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, which included mass media, Washington state saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent.

In summary, the evidence is clear that mass media campaigns are an essential component of any effort to reduce tobacco use. In launching this campaign, the CDC is providing much needed national leadership that will reduce smoking among both youth and adults, save lives and reduce tobacco-related health care costs. Funded by the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the health care reform law, this campaign shows the great potential of the fund to improve health and reduce health care costs in the United States.

Please contact us for more information or for helping in contacting scientific experts who have researched the effectiveness of mass media campaigns.

More information:

Fact Sheet: Public Education Campaigns Reduce Tobacco Use:

Surgeon General’s Report:

Source: Danny McGoldrick, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

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