Shafer studies smoking, from smoke-free air laws to anti-smoking media campaigns

March 24, 2016

Paul Shafer

Paul Shafer

Paul Shafer, MA, studies media campaigns and policies related to tobacco use. Recently, he has co-authored articles on both a statewide smoke-free air law and a national media campaign that encourages smokers to quit.

In the first paper, Shafer, a doctoral student of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and a research economist in the Center for Health Policy Science and Tobacco Research at RTI International, led a study with a colleague at RTI to evaluate the economic impact of North Dakota’s 2012 statewide smoke-free air law expansion.

The resulting article, “Economic Impact of Smoke-Free Air Laws in North Dakota on Restaurants and Bars,” was published online February 17 by Nicotine & 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, 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 by Preventing Chronic Disease.

The Tips From Former Smokers Campaign, which is sponsored by the CDC, 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 ever since.

While campaign evaluation results were consistently positive for the 2012 and 2013 campaigns, 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. 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,” 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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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu

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