Guest Update by Dr. Robert Croyle
Understanding the Media's Power to Influence Tobacco Use and Control
Despite progress made in reducing tobacco use, today fully one-third of the nation's cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoking. Approximately 20 percent of American adults still smoke and more than 4,000 adolescents smoke their first cigarette each day.
Why are these rates still so high? Part of the answer is explained in the recently released 19th volume of the NCI Tobacco Control Monograph Series, The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use, which was highlighted at a press conference sponsored by the American Legacy Foundation, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Public Health Association, and the American Medical Association.
The monograph, which took more than 5 years to complete, involved 5 scientific editors, 23 authors, and 62 expert reviewers, who analyzed more than 1,000 scientific studies on the role of media in encouraging and discouraging tobacco use. Research included in the monograph comes from the disciplines of marketing, psychology, communication, statistics, epidemiology, and public health - all vital to understanding how exposure to the media influences tobacco use.
And the evidence from that research is clear and convincing. The editors concluded, for example, that mass media campaigns to discourage tobacco use can change youth attitudes about tobacco, reduce the chances children will smoke, and encourage adult cessation. The effect on initiation appears greater in controlled field experiments when mass media campaigns are combined with school- and community-based programming. Many population studies document reductions in smoking prevalence when mass media campaigns are combined with other strategies in multi-component tobacco control programs.
Tobacco use still accounts for more than 400,000 premature deaths in the United States each year. Understanding the role of media in reducing or promoting tobacco use is of critical importance in fighting the tobacco epidemic. It is our hope that this new monograph will inform tobacco prevention and control research, practice, and policy for years to come in the United States and around the world. If it is successful in that regard, we know many lives will be saved.
Dr. Robert T. Croyle