Does Stoptober work?

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Ploughing more money into the Stoptober campaign leads to better results, an expert has said.

The campaign encourages smokers to join a mass quit attempt in the month of October, on the basis that people are five times more likely to quit if they go smoke free for 28 days.

Professor Robert West, who was part of a team of researchers who examined the effectiveness of the campaign in its first year in 2012, said that the public health campaign is “incredibly good value for money”.

But Prof West, who is director of tobacco studies at University College London, said that sometimes “very little” money is spent on the campaign.

In an interview with the Press Association, he said: “An issue that comes up is that if you spend more on a campaign you get more for it.

“What’s happened over the years that Stoptober has been running is that sometimes they spend more on it, sometimes they spend less, sometimes they spend very little.

“There is an important issue about mass media campaigns and public health because they are incredibly good value for money in terms of public health benefit.

“Stoptober is one of the main areas of spending on smoking campaigns, if not the main one, and it’s always a battle for the people in Public Health England (PHE) to get agreements for funding to do it.”

An official report evaluating the 2016 Stoptober campaign sets out a significant drop in media spend for the campaign.

“In 2016, competing priorities led to a significant budget reduction for Stoptober. Most notably, media spend was reduced from £3.1 million in 2015 to £390,000 in 2016,” the PHE document states.

The review into the first Stoptober campaign estimated that it generated an additional 350,000 quit attempts.

Prof West and colleagues examined the quit attempt rate in October compared to other months of the year before the campaign.

“What we found was that in that [first] year that Stoptober ran, there was a significant increase in the quit attempt rate in that specific month compared to other months of the year,” Prof West said.

Prof West is also part of a team which will report findings of a study examining the effectiveness of the first six years of the programme.

Commenting on the effectiveness of the campaign, Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said: “Stoptober has been and continues to be a hugely successful public health campaign.

“It takes what can seem to many like an insurmountable task – quitting smoking for good – and breaks it down into manageable chunks.

“This works because we know that if someone can be supported to stay off the cigarettes for 28 days, they are then five times more likely to stop for good.

“With this 28 day target in mind, and buoyed by a feeling that ‘we’re all in it together’, would-be quitters feel more able to take the leap.

“The single best thing a smoker can do for their health is to quit smoking.

“For those who have tried before and failed it can be difficult to face up to it again, but with more support available than ever before, now is the ideal opportunity to make another effort.”

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