Characterising tobacco control mass media campaigns in England

Tessa Langley, Sarah Lewis, Ann McNeill, Anna Gilmore, Lisa Szatkowski, Robert West, Michelle Sims

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (SciVal)


To characterise publically-funded tobacco control campaigns in England between 2004 and 2010 and to explore whether they were in line with recommendations from the literature in terms of their content and intensity. International evidence suggests that campaigns which warn of the negative consequences of smoking and feature testimonials from real-life smokers are most effective, and that four exposures per head per month are required to reduce smoking prevalence.

Characterisation of tobacco control advertisements using a theoretically-based framework designed to describe advertisement themes, informational and emotional content and style. Study of the intensity of advertising and exposure to different types of advertisement using data on population-level exposure to advertisements shown during the study period.


Television Ratings (TVRs), a standard measure of advertising exposure, were used to calculate exposure to each different campaign type.

89% of advertising was for smoking cessation; half of this advertising warned of the negative consequences of smoking, while half contained how-to-quit messages. Acted scenes featured in 72% of advertising, while only 17% featured real-life testimonials. Only 39% of months had at least four exposures to tobacco control campaigns per head.

A theory-driven approach enabled a systematic characterisation of tobacco control advertisements in England. Between 2004 and 2010 only a small proportion of tobacco control advertisements utilised the most effective strategies - negative health effects messages and testimonials from real-life smokers. The intensity of campaigns was lower than international recommendations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2001-2008
Number of pages9
Issue number11
Early online date9 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


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