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Most of Us Are Tobacco Free
An 8-Month Social Norms Campaign Targeting Youth Initiation of Smoking in Montana

Project Description

In the 2000-2001 academic school year, the Montana Social Norms Project conducted an 8-month long Most of Us Are Tobacco Free social norm marketing campaign targeting youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years in seven western Montana counties (Missoula, Lake, Rivali, Mineral, Flathead, Sanders, and Granite). Post-test data revealed that only 10% of teens in the campaign area reported first time cigarette use as compared to 17% of teens in a control sample from the 49 counties in the rest of the state. This represents a 41% difference in the proportion teens who reported that they initiated smoking in the counties targeted in the intervention as compared to those in the rest of the state.

Project Funding Sources

Funding for this project was provided by:

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control
  • Montana Master Tobacco Settlement Fund
  • Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services

Project Objectives

The overall goal of the project was to achieve in the campaign area a measurable reduction in the numbers of youth (ages 12-17) experimenting with smoking for the first time.

Baseline Data

Baseline data revealed no significant differences between the intervention (n = 409) and the control (n = 419) samples for gender, age, racial composition, or the percentage of respondents who had tried smoking. Also, baseline data in the intervention and control counties showed no significant difference in the perceived norms for tobacco use. Nevertheless, based on various measures, large percentages of the respondents in both the intervention and the control counties erroneously thought that the majority of their peers were using tobacco.

Primary Normative Message

The primary message of the campaign was:

  • MOST of Us (70%) are tobacco free

Marketing Methods Employed

Normative messages were delivered in the seven intervention counties via:

  • Television: six 30 second ads on both cable and broadcast stations, aired during three eight-week media flights.
  • Radio: six 30 second ads, aired during three eight-week media flights.

(Note: One of the important factors that contributed to the selection of the seven western counties for the intervention was the fact that they were located in an isolated media market. Therefore, the campaign's normative messages could be targeted to the teens residing in these counties but not to the teens in the rest of the state.)

In addition, print and promotional items distributed to schools, theater slides, billboards, local newspaper ads and other strategies were employed to deliver the campaign's normative message.

Evaluation

Pre-test data were gathered in a phone survey conducted prior to the implementation of the social norm campaign in September 2000. Households were randomly selected and initial screening calls were made to parents to obtain permission for the teenagers to have the privacy to participate in the interview. A total of 409 pre-test interviews were conducted in the counties targeted for intervention and 419 were conducted in the rest of the counties in the state that served as the control.

At the conclusion of the social norm campaign in May 2001, post-test interviews were conducted (in July 2001) with 641 of the original 848 teens.

A comparative analysis of post-test interviews included these findings:

  • Significantly more teenagers spontaneously recalled exposure to television, radio, and newspaper tobacco prevention messages during the past 30 days in the intervention counties than did in the control counties.
  • When told that the ad stated "Most of Us (70%) of Montana Teens are Tobacco Free," significantly more teenagers in the intervention counties recalled a campaign advertisement than did so in the control counties. This applied to all types of media: television, radio, newspaper, billboard, posters, and Frisbees.
  • Baseline data showed no statistically significant difference in the perceived 30-day tobacco use norms of the teens in the intervention and control counties. Post-test analysis showed that the percentage of respondents who misperceived the norm was significantly less in the intervention than in the control counties.

Project Results

Data on smoking initiation among respondents in the intervention and control counties between 2000 and 2001 show a marked and statistically significant difference. In the intervention counties, only 10% of the adolescents tried smoking during the year who had never used tobacco previously. This contrasts with 17% of the adolescents in the control counties who initiated smoking during the year.

This 7-percentage point difference represents a 41% difference in the proportion of teens who initiated smoking in the campaign area as compared to the rest of the state.

Key Contacts

Jeff Linkenbach, Ed.D.
Montana Social Norms Project
Montana State University - Bozeman
P.O. Box 170520
Bozeman, MT 59717-0520
(406) 994-7873
jwl@montana.edu

H. Wesley Perkins, Ph.D.
Evaluation Consultant to the Montana Social Norms Project
Professor of Sociology
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, NY 14456
Perkins@hws.edu

Further Information

For further information about the particular project described here, see the web page of the Montana Most of Us Are Tobacco Free Campaign.

See also:
Linkenbach, J. W. and H. W. Perkins, "Most of Us Are Tobacco Free: An Eight-Month Social Norms Campaign Reducing Youth Initiation of Smoking in Montana," (2003) in The Social Norms Approach To Preventing School And College Age Substance Abuse: A Handbook For Educators, Counselors, And Clinicians, Ed. H. Wesley Perkins. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

For comprehensive information about the Montana Most of Us projects, all of which strive to produce social change through a variety of innovative, science-based methods, visit the Montana Most of Us web page.