RESEARCH: SIFTING THROUGH THE SMOKE
To assess the scope of the problem, F-H evaluated baseline surveys, including The NJ Youth Tobacco Survey, the Adult Tobacco Survey, the Media Tracking Study, and The School Tobacco Survey.
Results revealed a dramatic spike in the number of smokers among New Jersey’s 18-24 year olds. In a single year, from 1998-1999, cigarette smoking in this age group increased 6 percent. The increase parallels the recent tobacco industry shift to targeting young adults since the Master Settlement Agreement banned advertising to minors. In response, DHSS developed a first-of-its kind, multi-tiered cessation program customized for New Jersey users. Program components include Quitnetsm , an innovative on-line service developed in association with Boston University School of Public Health, and Quitline, a toll-free number for one-on-one counseling developed in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center.
CHALLENGE/OPPORTUNITY: JUST SAY NO IS NOT ENOUGH
Success rates among those wishing to quit smoking are not encouraging. Nearly one-third of all smokers attempt to quit each year. Many have attempted more than once. College students are constantly under stress, and are surrounded by others who smoke — not an ideal environment for quitting. The program needed to establish the perception that freeing oneself from tobacco addiction is a positive choice.
PLANNING PROCESS: THE “Q” QUOTIENT
The primary audience was adults aged 18-49, with a special emphasis on college-age students, and the medical community. Objectives were to introduce the services in a way that would gain media attention and promote the services to a broad range of NJ smokers. Quitnet and Quitline offer privacy, personalization, regular support and a sense of community that differentiate them from previous programs. The PR. program needed to build on these customized elements, thereby encouraging smokers to take action.
STRATEGIC APPROACH: NO BUTTS ABOUT IT
- Introducing New Jersey’s Quitnet and Quitline on college campuses in two distinct regions of the state.
- Reinforcing the initial launch with the Campus Challenge, a competition aimed at creatively publicizing the new services to campuses and surrounding communities.
- Promoting the new services directly to health care providers in order to counteract a trend, which reveals that nearly half of all physicians do not address the issue of smoking during regular check-ups
- Promoting Tell Someone You Love, a letter-writing campaign for elementary school children coordinated with the Great American Smokeout.
EXECUTION: THE UNFILTERED TRUTH
“Actually, Quitters Do Win”. F-H worked with two of New Jersey’s state universities to introduce Quitnet and Quitline: Rutgers-Newark (northern NJ) and Rowan University (southern NJ).
Prior to the introduction, F-H trained student volunteers in the use of the services and created a video, which became a centerpiece of the event. Video segments were shown on news broadcasts of local and network television. Personal stories have continued to be a key element of the campaign, and plans are in process to create a documentary for college campus orientations and for television programming.
Governor Christine Whitman made the initial announcement to an audience of students, faculty, local dignitaries and the media at Rutgers on October 26. Commissioner of Health, Christine Grant, addressed a similar audience at Rowan University later in the day.
Following the announcements, students demonstrated nj.quitnet.com. The F-H team continued its outreach, arranging post-event interviews with the Commissioner and students. Because people could identify with these early users of the services, personal stories proved very popular with the press.
On October 29, the services were announced by Governor Whitman and Giants player Lomas Brown on the Jumbotron at Giants stadium before a crowd of 80,000. The F-H produced video was shown at each subsequent home game and was distributed to television stations as a PSA, as well.
The Campus Challenge was issued the day following the launch. Communication advisors at colleges throughout the state received materials explaining the contest and providing templates for student use. The peer-to-peer approach increased users among a particularly hard-to-reach audience.
Physician Kits containing display units and “take aways” for reception areas as well as “prescription pads” with the cessation service information were distributed on a pilot basis to 1,000 doctors and dentists. Kits were created in both English and Spanish to serve the state’s multicultural communities.
Tell Someone You Love. In celebration of the Great American Smokeout, third and fourth grade teachers received materials developed by Scholastic Magazine to encourage children to write “Tell Someone You Love” letters about the dangers of smoking. F-H invited the press to attend the program in a variety of districts. Statewide publicity resulted in expanded program awareness.
OVERCOMING OBSTACLES: SMOKESCREEN
The resistance to “just another quitting program” was countered by first-hand accounts of participants who could attest that this program was different. Quitnet users were quick to point out the value of the sense of community, of knowing others have the same quit date, and of receiving e-mail encouragement on a regular basis. Quitline users praised the personalized approach, the value of one-on-one counseling. Both programs encompass a broad range of quit strategies, tailored to the individual.
RESULTS: KICKING ASH
In the four days following the launch, 700 New Jerseyans logged on to Quitnet and 140 of them immediately registered for the service. During the same period, 82 people called Quitline and 67 enrolled with phone counselors. Quitnet results for the first six weeks after the launch were: 200,000 hits; 9,000 pulled down information; 350 signups for treatment. Within 3 months, 1,000 people signed up.
The Campus Challenge resulted in creative programs: Rutgers launched a poster campaign featuring “Smokeymon,” a clever play on the popular Pokemon figures, and a Rowan University student dressed as “Delete,” a computer to help students “delete the habit.” These programs, as well as others throughout the state, resulted in coverage in school newspapers, providing another awareness boost for college students.
Physician kits have proven extremely popular, and anecdotal research indicates physicians are using them as a springboard for stop-smoking discussions. DHSS recently distributed kits to 18,000 physicians. Calls are in process to renew materials for the first round of participants and to formalize usage statistics.
In its first three months, the program in New Jersey has resulted in 3,153,261 high-level print impressions and network audience reach of 1,234,000. Twelve Radio interviews and 11 cable features extend this broadcast reach even further.