$2.4 Million NIH Grant to Study TV Ads and Smoking Behaviors


The University of Illinois at Chicago has received a $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate the impact of anti-smoking television advertising on youth, young adult and adult smoking behaviors.


"The grant will enable us to match 10 years of Nielsen Media Research data to population surveys that include information about smoking behavior," said Sherry Emery, principal investigator of the study and senior scientist at the UIC Institute for Health Research and Policy. "We will examine how exposure to a variety of ads, in different areas of the United States across time, is related to smoking and quitting behaviors."

Survey data will include 110 major media markets during a 10-year span from 1999 through 2008. The study will focus on youth (ages 12 to 17), young adults (18 to 24) and adults (25 and over), to examine the relationship between televised smoking-related ads and smoking beliefs and behaviors.

UIC researchers will use multi-level statistical models to combine ad ratings data from Nielsen with data on individual-level smoking behavior and state-level tobacco control policies.

Nielsen data are a valuable tool used by television stations and advertising agencies to measure ad ratings, but they are often too expensive and not configured for academic use, according to Emery. The UIC researchers believe the unique combination of data will fill in important gaps in smoking behavior research.

Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States and millions of dollars are spent annually on anti-smoking and other public health advertising, yet little is known about the impact of such ads.

Previous studies have primarily focused on individual smoking-related media campaigns within a single state or country. Research conducted by Emery and colleagues suggests that state-sponsored anti-smoking advertising is associated with reduced smoking and increased anti-smoking attitudes among youth. But the impact of these ads on adults -- who represent the majority of smokers -- is unknown.

This is the first study to examine how and whether various types of smoking-related advertising (state and nationally sponsored tobacco control, tobacco industry, and pharmaceutical cessation aids) affect young adult and adult smoking behavior, smoking status, how much they smoke, and attempts to quit, according to UIC researchers.

Researchers will also examine the impact of recent reductions in state-sponsored anti-smoking media campaigns. In recent years, ads for drug cessation aids have multiplied and tobacco industry-sponsored ads have shifted focus by marketing to adults.

"The tobacco industry has switched their focus of marketing to youth to marketing to young adults because it's legal," said Emery. "We're very interested in learning about adult smoking behaviors because after age 25 is when people start quitting, and a lot of these ads try to motivate people to quit smoking."

Co-investigators include Michael Berbaum, Frank Chaloupka, and Susan Curry of UIC and Melanie Wakefield of the Victoria Cancer Council, Victoria, Australia.

This news release was written by Sherri McGinnis-González of the UIC News Bureau.

Editor’s note (6/15/2016): Melanie Wakefield was a senior research scientist at IHRP from 2000 to 2006. During that time, she was the principal investigator of Youth Smoking and the Media, a research project funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. She is now the director of the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer at the Cancer Council Victoria, Australia. Learn more about her. http://www.cancervic.org.au/research/researchers/melanie-wakefield.html.