Montana State University–Bozeman — Research demonstrates that the number of teens who tried smoking significantly decreased in several western Montana counties after an eight month science-based MOST of Us Are Tobacco Free Campaign. Data further indicates that with additional funding and resources the campaign has the potential to encourage an even greater number of teens in the campaign area and beyond to stay tobacco free. However, the campaign’s future is in question due to limited state funds.

Surveys conducted after this eight-month campaign demonstrated that 10% of teens in the campaign area who had never before tried cigarettes, reported a first time use of cigarettes during the academic year. This compares to 17% of teens in the rest of the state who tried cigarettes and did not receive the campaign. The 7% fewer teens who reported first time cigarette use in the campaign area represent a 41% difference in the proportion of the number of teens who were first time smokers in the campaign area as compared to the rest of the state.

Jeff Linkenbach, Ed.D., Director of the Montana Social Norms Project in Montana State University’s Department of Health and Human Development said, “Our MSU team of researchers is encouraged by these results because they show that this positive science can really make a difference in the lives of Montana teens.”

The campaign, which ran from September 2000 to April 2001, broadcasted and promoted positive, science-based messages in a seven-county pilot area that included Missoula, Ravalli, Lake, Mineral, Flathead, Sanders, and Granite counties. These counties are home to approximately 21,300 teens between the ages of 12-17 years old or 28% of all Montana teenagers.

The control group design under which the MOST of Us Are Tobacco Free Campaign was implemented provides for a high level of rigorous evaluation. “With $932 million dollars being awarded to Montana in the Master Tobacco Settlement, the people of our state deserve to have their money invested in a comprehensive prevention program, including efforts like those of Montana State University’s MOST of Us Campaign that can demonstrate effectiveness in saving money and lives,” said former Montana Attorney General Joe Mazurek.