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Mass media interventions for preventing smoking in young people.

BACKGROUND: The mass media have been used as a way of delivering preventive health messages. They have the potential to reach and to modify the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of a large proportion of the community.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the effectiveness of mass media campaigns in preventing the uptake of smoking in young people.

SEARCH STRATEGY: We searched Medline, and 28 other electronic databases. Handsearching of key journals was also carried out, the bibliographies of identified studies were checked for additional references and contact with content area specialists was made. Date of last search June 1998.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised trials, controlled trials without randomisation and time series studies that assessed the effectiveness of mass media campaigns (defined as channels of communication such as television, radio, newspapers, bill boards, posters, leaflets or booklets intended to reach large numbers of people and which are not dependent on person to person contact) in influencing the smoking behaviour (either objective or self-reported) of young people under the age of 25 years.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Information relating to the characteristics and the content of media interventions, participants, outcomes and methods of the study was abstracted by one reviewer and checked by a second. Studies were combined using qualitative narrative synthesis.

MAIN RESULTS: Six out of a total of 63 studies reporting information about mass media smoking campaigns met all of the inclusion criteria. All six studies used a controlled trial design. Two studies concluded that the mass media were effective in influencing the smoking behaviour of young people. Both of the effective campaigns had a solid theoretical basis, used formative research in designing the campaign messages and message broadcast was of reasonable intensity over extensive periods of time.

REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: There is some evidence that the mass media can be effective in preventing the uptake of smoking in young people, but overall the evidence is not strong.

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