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Better-Educated Smokers More Likely To Try Quitting In Response To Ads

Armen Hareyan's picture

Better-educated smokers are more likely to respond to TV ads that promote quitting smoking, while the effect of secondhand smoke messages is similar across educational levels, according to a new Wisconsin study.

University of Wisconsin researchers surveyed 452 adult smokers of different socioeconomic and educational levels about their recall of "keep trying to quit" and secondhand smoke ad campaigns. The initial surveys took place in 2002 and 2003. A year later, these smokers responded to questions on quit attempts and abstinence.

Of those who recalled seeing the ads, about 65 percent of college-educated respondents tried to quit in the following year, compared with 30 percent of those with high-school or less education, according to the researchers' analysis that controlled for other factors like age and ethnicity.

However, for the keep-trying-to-quit ads, there was not a statistically significant difference between the groups in promoting abstinence from smoking after one year and there was no difference in response to messages on secondhand smoke.

Lead researcher Jeff Niederdeppe, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow, said that about 7 percent of those with graduate degrees smoke in this country, while 46 percent of those with a GED light up.

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The researchers concluded, "Some media campaign messages appear less effective in promoting quit attempts among less-educated populations."

The study appears in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Niederdeppe said that income could also be a significant factor. "Lower socioeconomic-status smokers may be more addicted and work in places where smoking is less restricted. They also have less access to abstinence aids such as medications and counseling." Seeing an ad might not be a sufficient or effective motivator by itself.

"We are not doing a good enough job of providing lower socioeconomic smokers with resources to help them quit," he said.

Lirio Covey, Ph.D., is the director of the psychiatry department at Columbia University Medical Center and of the Smoking Cessation Program at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. She says the study "signals the need to devote more public health attention and resources to understanding the continuing allure of smoking for persons of lower SES and the barriers to their efforts not only to begin to make attempts to stop smoking, but also to succeed when they embark on those attempts."

She concludes, 'Public health messages have apparently resonated with more socioeconomically advantaged smokers but have failed to move the dial for disadvantaged smokers."