The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced an adult smoking cessation education campaign aimed at encouraging cigarette smokers to quit through messages of support that underscore the health benefits of quitting. These messages will be displayed in and around gas stations and convenience stores – retail locations where smokers face a multitude of triggers and that typically feature cigarette advertisements. The “Every Try Counts” campaign targets smokers ages 25-54 who have attempted to quit smoking in the last year but were unsuccessful. The two-year campaign launches next month in 35 U.S. markets and features print, digital, radio, and out-of-home ads, such as on billboards.
“Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S.,” said U.S. Surgeon General VADM Jerome M. Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “As Surgeon General, I believe sustained and comprehensive efforts, including the FDA’s ‘Every Try Counts’ campaign, are critical to encouraging more Americans to quit smoking and preventing the harms associated with cigarette use.”
“The ‘Every Try Counts’ campaign encourages smokers to rethink their next pack of cigarettes at the most critical of places ‒ the point of sale. Tobacco companies have long used advertisements at convenience stores and gas stations to promote their products, and we plan to use that same space to embolden smokers to quit instead,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. “The FDA is committed to reducing tobacco-related disease and death by helping people quit combustible cigarettes and implementing comprehensive policies to reduce addiction to nicotine. Our aim is to render cigarettes minimally or non-addictive, while encouraging the development of potentially less harmful tobacco products for adults who still want or need access to nicotine. At the same time, we’re also taking new steps to improve access and use of FDA-approved medicinal nicotine products to help smokers quit.”
Cigarette smoking is responsible for an estimated 480,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Despite declining rates of use among adults, 15 percent (36.5 million) of adults in the U.S. were cigarette smokers in 2015. Of those adult smokers, about 2 out of 3 (more than 22 million) say they’d like to quit. While more than 55 percent of adult smokers made a quit attempt in 2015, only about 7 percent were successful.
“Every Try Counts,” seeks to celebrate each quit attempt as a positive step toward success because research shows those who have tried quitting before are more likely to try again, and those who have tried to quit multiple times have a higher likelihood of quitting for good. In addition to the positive messaging, location plays an important and unique role in the campaign. Ads will be placed in various locations at the point-of-sale, including at the gas pump and other places around the retail environment such as the front door, cash register and shelves. Studies show that in-store displays and other tobacco advertisements can trigger unplanned cigarette purchases, making quitting more difficult. Placing ads in those same locations will help to disrupt the urge to purchase cigarettes and encourage another quit attempt instead.
“Tobacco advertising in retail environments can generate a strong urge to smoke, prompting a relapse among those attempting to quit. This campaign offers smokers motivational messages in those environments with the intention to build confidence and instill the belief within each smoker that they are ready to try quitting again,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “We want smokers to feel good about each attempt to quit because it is getting them closer to one day leading a healthier life free from cigarettes, reducing their risk of tobacco-related death and disease.”
The FDA has partnered with the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute to create EveryTryCounts.gov to provide smokers resources and tools to help with quitting. The website includes a free text message program that sends tips and offers words of encouragement, a mobile app to track smoking triggers, trained coaches accessible online or by phone, and information about the risks of smoking and the variety of FDA-approved smoking cessation products. Aligned with the campaign’s efforts, the American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Truth Initiative have also pledged resources, such as hosting local smoking cessation events in the “Every Try Counts” target markets.
“Every Try Counts” is a part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to reduce the enormous public health burden of tobacco use and will complement the agency’s at-risk youth and young adult education campaigns aimed at prevention. The campaigns, which are funded by user fees collected from the tobacco industry and not by taxpayer dollars, are based on the best available science and are evaluated to measure effectiveness in changing tobacco-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors over time. “Every Try Counts” will complement existing and proven cessation messaging focused on hard-hitting health consequences from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Tips From Former Smokers” campaign.
The campaign also complements the agency’s comprehensive plan on tobacco and nicotine regulation announced in July 2017. The approach places nicotine, and the issue of addiction, at the center of the agency’s tobacco regulation efforts. In particular, the plan focuses on addressing the role that nicotine plays in keeping smokers addicted to combustible cigarettes, and to help move those who cannot quit nicotine altogether onto less harmful products.