Preventing health issues from developing is a fundamental aspect of public health. Prevention programs can take a variety of forms, ranging from traditionally thought of, direct interventions like vaccinations to federal, state and local policies designed to prevent chronic diseases. For example, sin taxes on sugary beverages or cigarettes contribute to prevention by making unhealthy choices less attractive financially.
Other strategies to discourage unhealthy behaviors include media campaigns, increasing the minimum legal drinking or smoking age, reducing legal blood alcohol level limits for operating motor vehicles and making alcohol and tobacco products less available. With respect to tobacco cessation and decreasing alcohol consumption, using a multi-component approach that includes educational initiatives and environmental changes has proben more effective than employing just one approach in isolation.1
One of the most studied complimentary strategies to sin taxes are media campaigns. Researchers found that smoking rates were 34 to 41 percent lower among students who were exposed to anti-smoking advertising campaigns in school compared to students who weren't. These results persisted two years after the intervention.2
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1. Kelly-Weeder, Susan, et al., "Effectiveness of Public Health Programs for Decreasing Alcohol Consumption," Patient Intelligence, Col. 2011, No. 3 (May 12, 2011).
2. Farrelly, MC, et al., "Youth Tobacco Prevention Mass Media Campaigns: Past, Present, and Future Directions," BMJ, Vol. 12, No. 1 (June 2003).