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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

UNC Student Publishes Studies on Tobacco Use Programs and Policies

Mr. Paul Shafer, doctoral student in health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, studies media campaigns and policies related to tobacco use. Recently, he has co-authored articles on both a statewide smoke-free air law in North Dakota and a national media campaign that encourages smokers to quit.

becky-candid-800x500_tips from smokers_cdc
[Photo: “Becky” (pictured here), who was diagnosed with COPD at age 45, is one of the former smokers who shared their stories as part of the CDC’s “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign. UNC’s Mr. Paul Shafer co-authored a study finding that the annual campaign continues to have an impact upon people quitting smoking.]

In the first paper, Mr. Shafer co-led a study to evaluate the economic impact of North Dakota’s 2012 statewide smoke-free air law expansion. He and co-author Mr. Brett Loomis, of the Center for Health Policy Science and Tobacco Research at RTI International, in Research Triangle Park, NC, published their findings, “Economic Impact of Smoke-Free Air Laws in North Dakota on Restaurants and Bars,” on February 17 in Nicotine & Tobacco Research. Mr. Shafer also is a research economist in RTI International’s Center for Health Policy Science and Tobacco Research.

The researchers found that after North Dakota expanded its smoke-free air law to cover all restaurants and bars in the state, there was no significant change in employment in those venues, nor were sales negatively affected. Opponents of smoke-free air laws often claim that such policies will have an adverse effect on the hospitality industry. This study – the first to examine the economic impact of the expanded North Dakota law – counters that argument.

Smoke-free air laws are an effective tool for protecting both employees and the public from exposure to secondhand smoke, and the finding that the North Dakota law did not cause undue economic harm is a notable win for public health in the state.

For a second paper, Mr. Shafer again worked with colleagues from RTI International, as well as the Office on Smoking and Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on “Evaluation of the National Tips From Former Smokers Campaign: the 2014 Longitudinal Cohort,” published online March 24 in Preventing Chronic Disease.

The CDC-sponsored “Tips From Former Smokers Campaign” features graphic antismoking advertisements that highlight former cigarette smokers discussing their personal stories of adverse smoking-related health effects. The campaign was launched in 2012 and was so successful at encouraging quitting attempts among current smokers that the CDC has repeated the effort annually.

While campaign evaluation results consistently were positive for the 2012 and 2013 campaigns, Mr. Shafer and colleagues wanted to examine whether the effectiveness of campaign messages was sustained as the campaign matured.

In the study, adult cigarette smokers who participated in a baseline survey before the campaign took place were re-contacted approximately four months later, immediately after the campaign’s conclusion in 2014. Mr. Shafer and co-authors found that, among a nationally representative sample of smokers, exposure to the Tips campaign was associated with increased odds of both a quit attempt within the previous three months and intentions to quit in the next six months.

“Even now, more than 50 years after the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, we still have smokers in the United States who are struggling to quit despite the long-term consequences of smoking,” Mr. Shafer says. “After three years on air, the Tips campaign is still quite effective at encouraging smokers to try to quit.”

Overall, the 2014 campaign was associated with an estimated 1.83 million additional quit attempts, 1.73 million more smokers intending to quit within six months and 104,000 sustained quits lasting at least six months.

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