Statewide anti-tobacco campaign key factor in low levels of NC teen tobacco use

Monday, November 30, 2009 — A statewide media campaign aimed at reducing teen tobacco use has reached record levels of awareness among North Carolina youths and is reaching those at highest risk for future tobacco use, according to an evaluation by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers.

The campaign, called “Tobacco. Reality. Unfiltered.” or TRU, is sponsored by the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund. The TRU campaign is playing a substantial role in achieving the historically low levels of tobacco use seen among North Carolina middle and high school youths in recent surveys, the evaluation found.

"The TRU media campaign appears increasingly successful and integral to our state's success in reducing youth tobacco consumption. Keeping the campaign focused on true health stories of real people and continuously on North Carolina's airwaves will help ensure future success,” said Adam Goldstein, M.D., M.P.H., who led the evaluation. Goldstein is a professor in the UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and director of the UNC Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program.

Vandana Shah, executive director of the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund, said, “The TRU media campaign, along with the grassroots efforts of grantees and public health advocates across the state, continues to drive historically low levels of tobacco use among North Carolina youth. The report underscores the importance of continuing the campaign to ensure that these gains are maintained.”

Key findings of the evaluation include:

  • Between 2004 and 2009, youth awareness of TRU ads significantly increased from 48 percent to 77 percent, and over 600,000 youths (11 to 17) in NC have seen and are aware of the NC TRU campaign.
  • More than 94 percent of NC youths who had seen the TRU ads reported they were convincing, attention-grabbing, and gave good reasons not to smoke. More than 30 percent who had seen the TRU ads reported that they talked to their friends about the ads, indicating high “chat value.”
  • Youths who engage in sensation seeking behaviors, and thus are at greater risk for tobacco use, are significantly more likely to be aware of ads from the TRU media campaign and to recognize the Tobacco.Reality.Unfiltered. slogan.
  • Almost a third (31 percent) of youths reported participating in school-based anti-tobacco events in the 2009 survey (24 percent increase from 2004). Significantly more youths reported the presence of an anti-tobacco group in their community outside of school in 2009 than in 2004.

North Carolina’s Teen Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Initiative, funded by the Health and Wellness Trust Fund (HWTF), has included a statewide television media campaign since 2004. The campaign, branded Tobacco.Reality.Unfiltered., or TRU, features real North Carolinians sharing their stories of the serious health consequences of tobacco use.

Goldstein has led several evaluations of the TRU campaign. The Survey Research Unit at UNC conducts telephone interviews with youth ages 11 – 17 across North Carolina. A baseline survey was conducted in March and April of 2004, with follow up surveys immediately after the fall 2004 ad campaign, immediately after the fall 2005 campaign, and in 2007, four months after the major funding increase for the campaign. The latest evaluation survey began in January 2009, six months after the launch of the campaign’s latest ads, which featured a woman who began smoking at 13 and developed cancer at 19.

Media contact: Tom Hughes, (919) 966-6047, tahughes@unch.unc.edu

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