A new study finds that World No Tobacco Day, which marks its 25th anniversary today, has had a significant impact on public health by spurring cessation efforts among smokers.

For the study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, investigators from the Informatics Program at Children’s Hospital Boston and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health monitored news promoting cessation and Internet search queries indicative of cessation for 6 years in seven Latin American nations. Cessation news coverage and Internet search queries for cessation peaked on World No Tobacco Day, increasing as much as 83% and 84% compared to a typical day.

“After 25 years we didn’t know if World No Tobacco Day was having a significant public health impact,” said John W. Ayers, lead author of the study and faculty member at Children’s hospital. “Frankly, given the proliferation of awareness days, we were surprised to find large spikes pointing to interest in cessation.

As Benjamin Althouse, senior analyst and doctoral candidate at Bloomberg points out, “We generally think of New Year’s Day as the peak time when media encourages quitting and smokers want to quit. World No Tobacco Day spikes, however, often outsized New Year’s increases, like a second-chance quitting resolution.”

The authors note that these increases have potentially large health implications. “To otherwise achieve these kinds of increases, countries would have to raise cigarette taxes 2.8% every year; this is likely undoable year in and year out, unlike the way World No Tobacco Day delivers,” said Jon-Patrick Allem, co-author of the study from the University of Southern California’s Keck Medicine.

Source: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health