Increases in Quitline Calls and Smoking Cessation Website Visitors During a National Tobacco Education Campaign

March 19-June 10, 2012

Erik Augustson, PhD; Mary Anne Bright, MN; Stephen Babb, MPH; Ann Malarcher PhD; Robert Rodes, MS; Diane Beistle; Timothy McAfee, MD; Paul Mowery, MA


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2012;61(34):667-670. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Mass media campaigns and telephone quitlines are effective in increasing cessation rates among cigarette smokers.[1–5] During March 19–June 10, 2012, CDC aired Tips from Former Smokers (TIPS), the first federally funded, nationwide, paid-media tobacco education campaign in the United States. The TIPS campaign featured former smokers talking about their experiences living with diseases caused by smoking. The campaign was primarily intended to encourage adult smokers aged 18–54 years to quit by making them aware of the health damage caused by smoking and letting them know that they could call the telephone quitline portal 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit the National Cancer Institute (NCI) smoking cessation website ( if they needed free help to quit. The campaign included advertising on national and local cable television, local radio, online media, and billboards, and in movie theaters, transit venues, and print media. To determine the effects of the TIPS campaign on weekly quitline call volume and weekly unique visitors to the cessation website, CDC analyzed call and visitor data immediately before, during, and immediately after the campaign period and compared them with data from the corresponding weeks in 2011. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which found that the number of weekly calls to the quitline from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico increased 132% (207,519 additional calls) during the TIPS campaign, and the number of unique visitors to the cessation website increased 428% (510,571 additional unique visitors). These results indicate that many smokers are interested in quitting and learning more about cessation assistance, and will respond to motivational messages that include an offer of help.

The distribution of the TIPS campaign advertising purchases included 80% for national advertising and 20% for additional advertising in media markets with higher-than-average adult smoking prevalence. The advertising was intended to reach approximately 87% of U.S. adults aged 18–54 years an average of 18 times each.* All television and radio advertisements included either the quitline portal number or the smoking cessation website address, each of which appeared on television for approximately 3 seconds while being read aloud. CDC compared weekly quitline call volume and number of unique website visitors during the TIPS campaign period (March 19–June 10, 2012) with the corresponding weeks (March 21–June 12, 2011) in the previous year. Data on calls and unique website visitors were obtained from NCI. Call volume represented total attempted calls, not unique callers. Some persons might have both called the portal number and visited the NCI website. Data for the 2-week period May 30–June 12, 2011, (corresponding to approximately 15% of the 12-week baseline comparison period) were missing because of a database error, and therefore were imputed from the average weekly call volume during March 21–May 29, 2011. The number of unique visitors to the cessation website was obtained by NCI from Google Analytics.

Total call volume during the TIPS campaign was 365,194 calls, compared with 157,675 calls during the corresponding 12 weeks in 2011, for a total of 207,519 additional calls or a 132% increase (Figure 1). Compared with the corresponding weeks in 2011, weekly increases in calls during the campaign ranged from 86% to 160%. The website received 629,898 unique visitors during the TIPS campaign, compared with 119,327 during the same period in 2011, for a total of 510,571 additional unique visitors or a 428% increase (Figure 2). Weekly increases in visitors compared with the corresponding weeks in 2011 ranged from 355% to 484%. Altogether, compared with 2011 data, 718,090 additional calls and unique website visitors were received during the TIPS campaign.

Figure 1.

Number of weekly telephone calls made to national portal to state tobacco quitlines before, during, and after CDC's Tips from Former Smokers Campaign (TIPS),* compared with 2011 calls — United States, March 5–June 24, 2012
* TIPS was conducted during March 19–June 10, 2012.
Data for May 30–June 19, 2011, were imputed using straight-line regression.

Figure 2.

Number of weekly unique visitors to National Cancer Institute (NCI) smoking cessation website before, during, and after CDC's Tips from Former Smokers Campaign (TIPS),* compared with 2011 visitors — United States, March 12–June 24, 2012* TIPS was conducted during March 19–June 10, 2012.
Data were collected by Google Analytics.

* Final, verified, gross rating point data are not yet available.
Certain advertisements displayed other website addresses. For example, digital advertisements displayed, and an asthma print advertisement with a secondhand smoke focus showed in the English version andñol in the Spanish version.