Maine CDC Press Release

August 18, 2005

New Messages to Help Committed Smokers Quit

Contacts:
Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH Michael Norton, Director
Public Health Director Media and Public Relations
Maine Health & Human Services Maine Health & Human Services
Tel:  (207) 287-3270 221 State Street, Augusta, ME 04333-0011
Tel: (207) 287-5012
TTY: (207) 287-4479

Augusta, Maine - Seeking to reach seriously addicted smokers, Maine Health and Human Services’ Public Health today unveiled new hard-hitting messages emphasizing the serious health effects of smoking.

At a press conference today in Portland, Public Health officials revealed new television ads designed to reach Maine's most committed tobacco users and young adult smokers so they have an opportunity to quit. The latest statistics on tobacco use show the need for messages that reach committed adult smokers.

Maine adult smoking rates have dropped from 27% of adults smoking in 1990 to 21% in 2004. Total consumption of cigarettes dropped 28% in the last 10 years, and the high school age smoking rate has been cut nearly in half since 1997. But health officials are concerned that one-third of 18-24 year old adults in Maine still smoke.

"It is clear that Maine's investment in reducing tobacco use is paying off and yet some of our most difficult work lies ahead." said Dr. Dora Anne Mills, Public Health director. "Reaching Maine's most seriously addicted smokers is our biggest challenge.”

After extensive research that included testing several concepts among smokers, two new television messages were developed that smokers said would resonate most powerfully with them and lead to their quitting.

One 30-second television message is based on composite stories from three Maine oncologists and a Maine pathologist. The doctors related actual experiences they encountered while helping a patient and family through a lung cancer death. It will begin airing today across the state.

Already airing is a message based on milestones in a life that could be ended by tobacco-use. The concept of not knowing when a tobacco-related disease will strike is depicted through clips of home movies.

“We recognize that these messages are powerful and may even be disturbing to some,” Dr. Mills said. “But we also balance that with an obligation to get the attention of the difficult to reach adult smokers because we want to assure that everyone has an opportunity to live longer and healthier lives.”

In 2003, 951 Mainers died from lung cancer. Contrary to public perception, lung cancer surpasses breast cancer as the leading cancer killer of Maine women. Maine's aggressive efforts to help smokers quit and keep kids from starting have won national attention and continue to surpass program expectations. Still, Dr. Mills emphasized, there is more opportunity to connect committed smokers with help and improve Maine’s health.

“We know that 70% of smokers want to quit and yet tobacco also is a highly addictive substance, more so than most people realize. Combine that with the $73 million the tobacco industry spends every year in Maine promoting their products and it's no wonder many smokers who want to quit are having such a difficult time. We need to do everything we can to help, including providing information that may jolt them into taking action."

The Maine Tobacco HelpLine, which is celebrating its fourth anniversary next month, is dedicated to providing supportive coaching and nicotine replacement medication to help smokers quit. Studies have shown that people calling the HelpLine are three times more likely to quit than attempting on their own.

"The HelpLine will be ready to take calls from any smokers who see this messaging and decide that it's the right time to quit." said Mills. The Maine Tobacco HelpLine is 1-800-207-1230.

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services works to enhance the health, safety and independence of all Maine people. Its MaineCare program provides health insurance to more than 260,000 people. Other program initiatives protect public health, advance social and economic independence, and support preventative, protective, and public health services for children, families, Maine’s seniors, and adults, including those with cognitive and physical disabilities.