Stoptober: ASH calls for more mass media campaigns to help smokers to quit

20 September 2016

In advance of the annual Stoptober stop smoking campaign, ASH is calling on the Government to increase the frequency and the amount of money spent on stop smoking campaigns.

Deborah Arnott Chief Executive of ASH said,

“ASH strongly supports Stoptober which provides the support and encouragement that we know most smokers need to help them stop.  However, we are very concerned about the recent announcement by the Health Minister in the Lords that funding for mass campaigns like Stoptober has been cut again this year. The evidence is clear, to be successful mass media campaigns need to run throughout the year; Stoptober alone is not enough.”

During a parliamentary debate, the Health Minister, Lord Prior said that the expenditure allocated for this financial year was £4 million.*  Last year it was £5.3 million and it has declined significantly in the last 6 years; in 2008-09 it was nearly £25 million.

Financial year[1] Media Spend (£m)
2008-09 23.38
2009-10 24.91
2010-11 0.46
2011-12 3.16
2012-13 8.21
2013-14 7.64
2014-15 6.92
2015-16 5.3


ASH is also calling on the Government to publish without delay its new Tobacco Control Plan, replacing the previous one which expired at the end of 2015.  The new plan needs to clearly set out how the Government intends to fund tobacco control including mass media campaigns and Stop Smoking Services.


Contact:   Deborah Arnott 020 7404 0242 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m)

Notes and links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:

ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

* Hansard. HoL Debate.  Lord Prior of Brampton:  “£4 million has been allocated for tobacco-specific marketing activities, £1 million of which is for the Stoptober campaign launching next month.”


Effectiveness of Mass media campaigns


  1. Research has shown that mass media campaigns are highly effective and cost-effective in motivating quit attempts and discouraging uptake of smoking.[i] However, the UK is currently falling far below best practice spending on mass media campaigns.


  1. In 2009 funding for anti-smoking mass media campaigns in England was just under £25 million: by 2015 this figure had been cut to only £5.3 million, with further cuts expected this year. If England were to fund mass media campaigns at levels recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it should have been spending around £60 million; more than ten times the amount spent in 2015.[ii]


  1. Studies carried out in England in the past few years have found that mass media campaigns have been effective in triggering quit attempts and have been responsible for a significant proportion of the reduction in smoking prevalence,[iii] and that the freeze on mass media campaigns at the time of the 2010 election was associated with a reduction in quitting activity.[iv] A systematic review of economic evaluations of mass media campaigns noted that all of these found mass media campaigns to be cost effective[v], but these campaigns need to have sufficient intensity and be sustained in order to have a meaningful effect.[vi]


  1. A 2016 regional mass media campaign conducted by Fresh North East and Smokefree Yorkshire and Humber illustrates the value of mass media in promoting quit attempts. The campaign which focused on 16 cancers caused by smoking, reached approximately 333,000 people via TV, radio, print and online. Of those who saw the campaign 16% (around 55,300 people) cut down on their smoking. A further 8.4% (around 28,000 people) made a quit attempt as a result of the campaign while 4% switched to electronic cigarettes. This shows the clear impact mass media campaigns have on triggering quit attempts and changes in behaviour.



[i] Langley T. et al. The impact of media campaigns on smoking cessation activity: a structural vector autoregression analysis, Addiction 2012, 107(11):2043-50. 

[ii] Hopkinson NS, Millett C, Glantz S, Arnott D, and McNeill A (2016) UK government should fund stop smoking media campaigns not give tax breaks to films with smoking imagery. Addiction. doi: 10.1111/add.13511

[iii] Sims M, Salway R, Langley T. et al.. Effectiveness of tobacco control television advertising in changing tobacco use in England: a population-based cross-sectional study Addiction. 2014 109 (6): 986-94

[iv] Langley T, Szatkowski L, Lewis S et al. The freeze on mass media campaigns in England: a natural experiment of the impact of tobacco control campaigns on quitting behaviour.  Addiction 2014: 109: 995-1002

[v] Atusingwize E, Lewis S, Langley T. Economic evaluations of tobacco control mass media campaigns: a systematic review  Tobacco Control 2015: 24: 320-327

[vi] Durkin S & Wakefield M.  Commentary on Sims et al. (2014) and Langley et al. (2014) Mass media campaigns require adequate and sustained funding to change population health behaviours.  Addiction 2014: 109: 1003-1004.