Background: In the fall of 1986 the North Karelia Project in cooperation with Finnish TV 2 arranged an eight-part nationwide smoking cessation TV program. The Project, also arranged a smoking cessation contest coinciding with the TV program in cooperation with four major voluntary public health organizations and the national health service. The TV program featured two studio groups of local volunteers: one from Turku (southwestern Finland) and the other from North Karelia, where there was more intensive community support for the activity.
Results: Based on a national survey of a representative population sample, the reported viewing rates (at least one part) of the working-age population (15-64 years, smokers and nonsmokers) were 64% in North Karelia, 45% in Turku, and 46% nationally (P less than 0.001). Among smokers who had watched at least one session of the TV program, 7.7% reported to have tried to quit smoking in North Karelia, 4.1% in Turku, and 7.5% nationally. Altogether, 16,089 smokers participated in the contest; again the highest participation rate was in North Karelia. The 6-month success rate among the smokers who participated in the contest was 22% in North Karelia, 18% in Turku, and 17% nationally (P less than 0.05). Men were more likely to succeed in quitting: among men the 6-month success rate was 22% and among women 15% (P less than 0.001).
Conclusions: The results and experiences indicate high viewing and participation and a beneficial cost-effect ratio. They also stress the importance of community support activities in enhancing the effects of a media-based health promotion program.