A Low-Cost, Practical Method for Increasing Smokers' Interest in Smoking Cessation Programs

By McDonald, Paul W. | Canadian Journal of Public Health, January/February 2004 | Go to article overview

A Low-Cost, Practical Method for Increasing Smokers' Interest in Smoking Cessation Programs


McDonald, Paul W., Canadian Journal of Public Health


ABSTRACT

Background: Low participation rates reduce the public health impact of smoking cessation programs. Two barriers for improving participation are the cost of media campaigns and the proportion of smokers motivated to quit smoking. The objective of this study was to examine the feasibility of using classified newspaper ads and messages aimed at each stage of change to enhance participation in smoking cessation programs.

Methods: Three classified ads were run concurrently in a local daily newspaper for five consecutive days. The ads were designed to engage smokers in each of Prochaska's five stages of change. Each ad invited smokers or former smokers to call the local health department to participate in a paid focus group to design a new health department program.

Results: Calls were received from 181 eligible smokers, including 124 who provided data for the study. Thirty-seven, 34, and 29 percent of smoking respondents were in precontemplation, contemplation and preparation respectively. Half of ex-smokers were in the action stage. Ads cost $174 (Cdn), thus the cost per recruit was less than a dollar.

Conclusion: Classified ads can recruit smokers from all stages of change. Compared to traditional mass media, classified ads may also be a highly cost-efficient promotional strategy. Results provide justification for further research.

RESUME

Contexte : De faibles taux de participation reduisent l'effet des programmes de renoncement au tabac sur la sante publique. Deux obstacles a l'amelioration de la participation sont le cout des campagnes de publicite dans les medias et la proportion des fumeurs motives a cesser de fumer. Nous avons cherche a determiner la possibilite de recourir aux annonces classees dans les journaux et a des messages axas sur chaque etape du changement pour rehausser la participation aux programmes de renoncement au tabac.

Methode : Trois annonces classees ont paru simultanement dans un quotidien local pendant cinq jours d'affilee. Elles visaient a recruter des fumeurs aux cinq etapes du changement enoncees dans le modele de Prochaska. Chaque annonce invitait des fumeurs ou d'anciens fumeurs a appeler leur service de sante local pour participer a un groupe de discussion remunere et aider e concevoir un nouveau programme pour Ic service de sante.

Resultats : On a recu des appels de 1 81 fumeurs admissibles, dont 1 24 ont fourni des donnees pour l'etude. Respectivement 37 %, 34 % et 29 % des repondants fumeurs en etaient a l'etape de la pre-reflexion, de la reflexion et de la preparation. La moitie des anciens fumeurs en etaient a l'etape de l'action. Les annonces ont coute 1 74 $CAN, soit moins de 1 $ par recrue.

Conclusion : Les annonces classees permettent de recruter des fumeurs a toutes les etapes du changement. Comparees aux medias de masse traditionnels, elles peuvent s'averer une strategie promotionnelle tres rentable. Les resultats obtenus justifient que l'on pousse la recherche dans cette direction.

The population impact of smoking cessation interventions is a consequence of treatment effectiveness, compliance and utilization.1'2 While research has examined effectiveness and compliance, there is a dearth of evidence on how to encourage smokers to use treatments.3'4

One barrier to improving utilization is the prohibitive cost of traditional promotion campaigns. The few studies available suggest it costs $42 to $235 Cdn per recruit.5'7 Even interpersonal referral and the use of public service announcements (PSAs) can be expensive in terms of staff time and other costs. An alternative to traditional mass media is classified advertising in newspapers. Classified ads can transmit consistent messages at low cost (e.g., there are no production costs). They are widely available in local newspapers and more than half of subscribers report reading classified ads each week.8

Another barrier to improving treatment utilization is that less than 10% of smokers are motivated to quit at any given time. …

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