Cochrane Summaries

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Can tobacco control programmes that include a mass media campaign help to reduce levels of smoking among adults

Bala MM, Strzeszynski L, Topor-Madry R, Cahill K
Published Online: 
6 June 2013

Mass media interventions involve communication through television, radio, newspapers, billboards, posters, leaflets or booklets, with the intention of encouraging smokers to stop, and of maintaining abstinence in non-smokers. It is likely that they contribute to a reduction in smoking when used as part of a complex set of interventions, but it is difficult to establish their independent role and value in this process. Eleven studies are included in this review, but they are of variable scale and quality. Five large studies out of the nine which reported smoking prevalence found some positive changes in smoking behaviour. Three large studies out of seven that measured the quantity of tobacco smoked found reductions. Four of the seven studies which measured quit rates reported significant increases in abstinence, but this finding was difficult to interpret because studies used different definitions of smoking, smokers and quit attempts. The intensity and duration of mass media campaigns may influence effectiveness, but length of follow-up and concurrent events in the community can make this difficult to verify. We found no consistent patterns between the effects of the campaigns and age, education, ethnicity or gender of those taking part.