Summary of ‘Mass media interventions for preventing smoking in young people’



This is a summary of Cochrane review, published in this issue of EBCH, first published as: Brinn MP, Carson KV, Esterman AJ, Chang AB, Smith BJ. Mass media interventions for preventing smoking in young people. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD001006. DOI: 10.1002/ 14651858.CD001006.pub2. Copyright © 2011 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. The Cochrane Collaboration


  • The aim of this review is to evaluate the effectiveness of mass media interventions to prevent smoking in young people.


  • Reducing the prevalence of tobacco use amongst adolescents remains a key public health priority. Addiction to nicotine usually begins during adolescence and young people who start to smoke at an early age have more difficulty quitting later on.

  • Worldwide, an estimated one in five young teenagers smoke regularly, with approximately 30 million children taking up the habit every year.

  • The mass media (TV, radio, newspapers, billboards) have increasingly been used as a way of delivering preventive health messages.

  • It has been suggested that the mass media are particularly appropriate for young people because they are exposed to and often greatly interested in the media.


  • Young people under 25 years of age (49 398 participants).


  • Any study which evaluated the effectiveness of mass media campaigns in influencing the smoking behaviour in young people using one of the following designs:

  • 1. Randomized controlled trial in which the unit of randomization was the school, community or geographical region

  • 2. Controlled trial without randomization allocating schools, communities or geographical regions

  • 3. Time series (i.e. data collection for one subject at regular intervals over a period of time)


  • Three of seven trials found that mass media smoking campaigns significantly reduced smoking. One of these trials used mass media campaigns alone, and two used mass media campaigns combined with school-based programmes.

  • Of the three campaigns that successfully decreased smoking, one also positively influenced behaviour, attitudes and perceptions; one positively influenced behaviour and one had no effect on attitudes, perception or self-efficacy.

  • Of the four campaigns that did not decrease smoking, two reported no difference in any other measured outcomes, one did not measure any other outcomes and one reported mixed findings in favour of both the treatment and control groups.


  • There is some evidence that mass media smoking campaigns may be effective in reducing smoking among young people.

How recent is the evidence

  • Databases were searched up to July 2010.

Research gaps

  • Further research is required, with rigorous methodology to increase the evidence base on the effect of mass media smoking campaigns on preventing smoking in young people.