Stoptober is a national campaign that launched in England in 2012 based on behavioural change theory that uses both traditional and new media to create a positive mass quitting trigger. It is designed to encourage smokers to quit smoking for 28 days during the month of October based on the insight that you can achieve this, you are five times more likely to quit for good (Bennett 2017). Stoptober is estimated to have generated an extra 350,000 attempts to quit smoking, saving around 10,400 years of life. The campaign is considered to be highly cost-effective, coming in at less than £415 (740 AUD) per discounted life year. With fifty percent more people attempting to quit smoking compared to other months in the same year (‘Stoptober success’ 2014), it is considered a successful campaign in both effectiveness and cost-effectiveness.
Between 2008 and 2016, a study of mass media expenditure towards smoke-free campaigns such as Stoptober found that there was an association between higher expenditure on tobacco control campaigns in England and an increase in quit success rates (Kuipers et al. 2018). Funded by Public Health England, Stoptober reaches out to the public through TV, radio, traditional and digital press, media partnerships, and local and regional organisations such as the national Stop Smoking Services.
(Devon County Council n.d.)
The multi-faceted public health campaign provides support for staying smoke-free through motivational text-messaging, and an app for self-monitoring progress. Psychological principles such as the use of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive) goals means that a difficult behavioural goal seems more attainable through starting with very specific intermediary goals (Brown et al. 2014). PRIME theory is also considered in the use of motivational text-messaging and peer support via Facebook, the theory being that behaviour is determined on a moment-to-moment basis due to a variety of inputs, impulses and emotional states (Brown et al. 2014). Frequent messages provide a trigger for smoking cessation and Stoptober provides an opportunity for people to do the challenge at the same time as others.
Overall, the mass media campaign Stoptober has provided good value for money as a tool for digital support for quitters and life-saving public health intervention. The campaign’s use of key psychological principles with a clear behavioural target has made a substantial impact on public health in triggering serious quit attempts and significant behavioural change.
Bennett, V. 2017, ‘Stoptober: helping to achieve a smoke-free generation’, Practice Nursing, vol. 28, no. 10, pp. 440-442.
Brown, J., Kotz, D., Michie, S., Stapleton, J., Walmsley, M. & West, R. 2014, ‘How effective and cost-effective was the national mass media smoking cessation campaign ‘Stoptober’?’, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 135, viewed 10 January 2019, <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871613004705?via%3Dihub>
Devon County Council n.d., Pinterest, viewed 10 January 2019, <https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/232709505723256924/?lp=true>
Glenday, J. 2017, Stoptober 2017 TV Advert, video recording, Youtube, viewed 10 January 2019, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28aIsV4ya5A>
Kuipers, M. A. G., Beard, E., West, R. & Brown, J. 2018, ‘Associations between tobacco control mass media campaign expenditure and smoking prevalence and quitting in England: a time series analysis’, Tobacco Control, vol. 27, viewed 10 January 2019, <https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/27/4/455>
Smail, P. 2016, Stoptober: The Marketers Smoking Gun?, Eight Million Stories, viewed 10 January 2019, <https://8ms.com/2016/10/25/stoptober-marketers-smoking-gun>
‘Stoptober success’ 2014, British Dental Journal, vol. 216, no. 3, p. 100.