The halt to an aggressive tobacco prevention campaign in Minnesota led to a rapid and significant increase in the proportion of that state’s teens who reported being susceptible to cigarette smoking – an important predictor of youth tobacco use. After the program ended, youth self-reported susceptibility to cigarette smoking increased nearly 10 percentage points – from 43.3 percent in July-August, 2003 to 52.9 percent in November-December, 2003.
The study – published in the April 16 issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report – provides early evidence of the possible detrimental public health impact of state cutbacks in paid anti-tobacco campaigns. Information collected from telephone surveys of Minnesota youths ages 12 to 17 found that teens reported being more susceptible to cigarette smoking in less than six months following the elimination of the state’s Target Market youth prevention campaign. Susceptibility to cigarette smoking was defined as a response other than “strongly disagree” to the statement, “You will smoke a cigarette in the next year.”
“It’s simply unacceptable that youth in our country continue to smoke,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “Young people are our future and we must continue to provide them with the knowledge, support and self-esteem necessary for them to make healthy choices like not smoking.”
The phone surveys also found that the percentage of young people aware of the anti-tobacco campaign fell by a third – from 84.5 percent in July-August, 2003 to 56.5 percent in November-December, 2003. The Target Market campaign began in Minnesota in 2000. Two previous surveys, the first conducted in July-September, 2002 and the second in March-April 2003 found both an increase in confirmed campaign awareness and no increase in susceptibility to smoking. Confirmed campaign awareness was defined as awareness of the Target Market brand logo (the capital letters “TM” inside a circle).
In Minnesota, annual funding for the tobacco prevention and control program was reduced more than 80 percent -- from $23.7 million in 2000 to $4.6 million in July, 2003, ending the youth-focused Target Market campaign. The new survey findings are consistent with evaluation data from Massachusetts, where a 92 percent cut in that state’s tobacco control program was followed by a large increase in illegal tobacco sales to minors.
“We are seeing the early signs of the reversal of the last five years of progress in preventing young people from starting smoking. It would be unconscionable to have tools as effective as these media campaigns at our disposal and not fully support them to reduce the epidemic of teen smoking,” said Dr. James Marks, director, CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
The Minnesota surveys were conducted by a team from the University of Miami School of Medicine in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health.
For more information on smoking and health, visit CDC’s Website at http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/
Thursday, April 15, noon ET Contact: CDC National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Press Office