A new study has found that exposure to smoking-cessation products ads helps smokers quit.
A new study from Cornell University has demonstrated that the more magazine ads smokers see for the nicotine scrap and other quit-smoking aids, the more likely they are to try to quit smoking and be successful, even without buying the products.
AdvertisementResearchers Don Kenkel, Dean Lillard, Alan Mathios and Rosemary Avery of Cornell's Department of Policy Analysis and Management, re-examined a collection of smoking advertising and literature for smoking cessation for their study on how these ads influence smokers to stop smoking.
"We think that the reason may be that important 'spillover effects' from advertising may be occurring, which has important implications for advertising for a wide range of health products," said Alan Mathios, professor of policy analysis and management at Cornell and a co-author of the study.
Using databases on the consumer behaviour and magazine-reading habits of 28,303 current or former smokers and advertising data in 26 consumer magazines, Mathios and three Cornell colleagues investigated the impact of advertising of smoking-cessation products on quitting decisions.
They found that although some of the increased quitting behaviour involves buying smoking-cessation products, just seeing the ads makes it more likely that smokers will try to quit.
"Thus, the public health returns to smoking-cessation product advertisements exceed the private returns to the manufacturers," write the researchers.
Free of the impact of advertising, smokers who do not read any magazines are less likely to try to quit, while smokers who read magazines that refuse cigarette ads or who read specialty magazines related to parenting or health are more likely to attempt to quit, the researchers reported.
They also calculated that if the smoking-cessation product industry increased its average annual spending on magazine advertising by about 2.6 million dollars or 10 percent, the average smoker would see 2.1 more ads each year, which, according to their calculations, would translate to about 80,000 additional quits each year.
The results of this study raise questions about how direct-to-consumer advertising of smoking cessation products are regulated. Ironically, says Mathios, ads for prescription smoking-cessation products are more heavily regulated than cigarette ads because of compulsory risk disclosures.
Mathios noted that the results of this study may also apply to other types of pharmaceutical advertising. For example, when patients discuss with their physicians an advertised drug that lowers cholesterol, physicians will often recommend such health behavior changes as diet and exercise, creating a positive spillover effect from the advertising.
The study is published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Political Economy.
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