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Explanations

Stoptober

Liz Blamire

3rd October 2023

Stoptober is a month long, national campaign to encourage smokers to quit. It has taken place every October since 2012. The principal aim of the campaign is to encourage smokers to try quitting smoking for 28 days. It is known that if a smoker can quit for 28 days, they are five times more likely to stop for good.

Why is Stoptober important?

In 2023, over 5 million adults in England still smoke and smoking remains the single biggest cause of preventable illness and death in the country - linked to 64,000 deaths a year. Thus, it remains an area of priority for the Office for Health Improvements and Disparities (OHID), which is part of the Department of Health & Social Care.

What approaches does Stoptober use?

Stoptober avoids the use of 'harm focused' messaging, choosing instead to focus on positive and motivational messages, which evidence suggests are more successful in encouraging smokers to quit. This means that rather than repeating statistics about lung cancer and preventable deaths, Stoptober talks about the benefits of quitting smoking.

It aims to create a social movement - encouraging smokers to join others in a collective effort to quit in October. There is an online community that participants can join, and campaign logos participants can upload to their social media profiles.

It uses SMART goals - the focus on trying to suit for 28 days in the first instance - and gives quitters access to a whole toolkit to support their efforts, including a Stoptober app, daily motivational emails and a free personal quit plan.

Does it work?

Each year, Stoptober is evaluated. In 2021, the government reported that since the campaign commenced in 2012, Stoptober has driven over 2.3 million quit attempts amongst smokers.

However, recent performance of the campaign has dipped slightly.

The 2019 campaign performed well, generating quit attempts among 25% of all smokers and recent ex-smokers, with 8% reporting that they were still not smoking at 4 weeks.

In contrast, in 2020, the campaign generated quit attempts among 12.3% of all smokers and recent ex-smokers, with 4% reporting that they were still not smoking at 4 weeks.

It is thought this drop in success might in part be attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic and the extensive pressures felt by individuals. Overall, engagement with the Stoptober message was down - the number of people that knew about the campaign. It will be interesting to see whether the more recent campaigns are more successful, however data is not currently available.

References

Liz Blamire

Liz is the current tutor2u subject lead for Health and Social Care. She is a former NHS midwife, who has worked in community, birth centre and acute hospital settings. Liz is an SSAT Accredited Lead Practitioner, who has taught Health and Social Care in FE and secondary schools, where she was a successful HOD. Liz is an experienced senior examiner and author.

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