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  • ACOEM Applauds HHS Secretary for Launching Media Campaign on Dangers of Smoking

    March 20, 2012

    The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
    Hubert H. Humphrey Building
    200 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 120F
    Washington, DC 20201

    Dear Secretary Sebelius:

    We are writing to applaud you for launching the federal government’s first nationwide paid media campaign to educate the public about the dangers of tobacco use and its terrible toll of disease and death. This campaign will help prevent young people from starting to smoke and encourage tobacco users to quit. This pioneering initiative will help drive down the rate of tobacco use in the United States, which will prevent disease, save lives, and reduce tobacco-related health care costs.

    As you know, the 45 million Americans who currently smoke are at heightened risk for a variety of cancers, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other serious medical conditions. The vast majority of today’s regular adult smokers began to use tobacco products during adolescence and became addicted by the time they were young adults.

    The evidence clearly demonstrates that well-designed and well-funded public education campaigns reduce the number of youth who start smoking, increase the number of smokers who quit, and make tobacco industry marketing less effective. The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report released earlier this month surveyed the scientific evidence and concluded, “Evidence indicates that mass media campaigns can be one of the most effective strategies in changing social norms and preventing youth smoking.” This report also concluded, “There is also strong evidence that media ads designed for adults also decrease the prevalence of smoking among youth.” The national public education campaign, “truth,” has succeeded in preventing thousands of teens from smoking, and media campaigns have been an integral part of successful tobacco prevention and cessation programs in many states, including California, Florida, New York, and Washington.

    This media campaign is a wise investment of Prevention and Public Health Fund resources and has great potential to help save money by reducing tobacco-related health care costs, which total $96 billion a year in the United States. There is growing evidence from states around the country that tobacco prevention and cessation programs, including mass media campaigns, have a significant return on investment. For example, a December 2011 study published by the American Journal of Public Health found that in the first 10 years of its tobacco prevention program, Washington State saved $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent.

    The “Tips from Former Smokers” media campaign sends a powerful message about the consequences of tobacco use from particularly compelling messengers: people who are suffering from a tobacco-caused disease. This approach has proven to be highly effective in the past. A recent systematic review of the literature on the impact of mass media campaigns found that messages that used graphic images or testimonials to portray the negative health consequences of smoking were found to be most effective at generating increased knowledge about the health effects of smoking, positive beliefs about quitting, and quitting behavior.

    This media campaign will strengthen our nation’s efforts to reduce the toll that tobacco use takes on our families, health care system, and government. It was a key element of your Department’s strategic plan for ending the tobacco epidemic and builds on successes such as enactment of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, the 61-cent increase in the federal cigarette tax, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which created the Prevention and Public Health Fund and expanded coverage of tobacco cessation services in Medicaid and private health plans.

    As the recent Surgeon General’s Report confirmed, we know which interventions work to prevent young people from starting to use tobacco products and to help current users to quit. Media campaigns are one of the most effective steps the federal government can take. We appreciate your leadership in launching this media campaign and thank you for your commitment to reducing the death and disease caused by tobacco use.

    Sincerely,

    Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
    American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
    American Heart Association
    American Lung Association
    Legacy
    Academy of General Dentistry
    American Academy of Family Physicians
    American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
    American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery
    American Academy of Pediatrics
    American Academy of Periodontology
    American Association for Cancer Research
    American Association for Community Dental Programs
    American Association for Dental Research
    American Association for Respiratory Care
    American Association Public Health Dentistry
    American College of Dentists
    American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
    American College of Preventive Medicine
    American Dental Association
    American Dental Hygienists’ Association
    American Medical Association
    American Public Health Association
    American Society of Addiction Medicine
    American Thoracic Society
    Association of Black Cardiologists
    Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors
    Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
    LIVESTRONG
    National Association of County and City Health Officials
    National Association of Local Boards of Health
    National Latino Tobacco Control Network
    National Physicians Alliance
    North American Quitline Consortium
    Partnership for Prevention
    Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions
    Society for Public Health Education
    United Church of Christ