How does the emotive content of televised anti-smoking mass media campaigns influence monthly calls to the NHS Stop Smoking helpline in England?

Sol Richardson, Tessa Langley, Lisa Szatkowski, Michelle Sims, Anna Gilmore, Ann McNeill, Sarah Lewis
Preventive Medicine 2014, 69: 43-8

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of different types of televised mass media campaign content on calls to the English NHS Stop Smoking helpline.

METHOD: We used UK government-funded televised tobacco control campaigns from April 2005 to April 2010, categorised as either "positive" (eliciting happiness, satisfaction or hope) or "negative" (eliciting fear, guilt or disgust). We built negative binomial generalised additive models (GAMs) with linear and smooth terms for monthly per capita exposure to each campaign type (expressed as Gross Ratings Points, or GRPs) to determine their effect on calls in the same month. We adjusted for seasonal trends, inflation-adjusted weighted average cigarette prices and other tobacco control policies.

RESULTS: We found non-linear associations between exposure to positive and negative emotive campaigns and quitline calls. The rate of calls increased more than 50% as exposure to positive campaigns increased from 0 to 400 GRPs (rate ratio: 1.58, 95% CI: 1.25-2.01). An increase in calls in response to negative emotive campaigns was only apparent after monthly exposure exceeded 400 GRPs.

CONCLUSION: While positive campaigns were most effective at increasing quitline calls, those with negative emotive content were also found to impact on call rates but only at higher levels of exposure.

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