Rendez-vous with . . . Christie Garbe, Chief Executive Officer, American Lung Association of AlaskaAuthor: Philippe Boucher
March 6, 2003
Rendez-vous with Christie Garbe
Chief Executive Officer
American Lung Association of Alaska
Thank you Christie for accepting our rendez-vous. May I ask you to introduce yourself?
Christie Garbe: Thank you for asking me to share a glimpse of tobacco control efforts here in Alaska. My name is Christie Garbe and I have served as the CEO of the American Lung Association of Alaska (ALAA) since 1997. My professional background is varied, but I have a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University and prior to my work with ALAA had experience working in substance abuse prevention and treatment.
It was my joining the ALAA in 1997 that catapulted me into the realm of tobacco control, and life has never been the same!
I came onto the scene immediately following a successful tobacco tax increase in Alaska. A 71-cent increase had just been passed and the fight was ugly.
This success brought Alaska's tax to the highest in the nation at $1.00 per pack of cigarettes and gave our coalition the clout to continue pursuing further tobacco control measures.
Q1. At age 37 Mike Sams is dying of lung cancer. Alaskans have started seeing and hearing his story in a new series of anti-smoking TV and radio ads. Can you tell us about this campaign, about Mike, how he got involved, how you worked with him?
Christie Garbe: Mike started smoking during high school and grew up with a mother and father who smoked. He was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 36. Unfortunately, the cancer has metastasized to his brain and most recently he was found to have cancer on one kidney. Mike and his wife Sandy are actually quiet, private people. However, when they found out that he had lung cancer, Sandy called ALAA to talk about his situation and to ask about support options.
We kept in touch with them and while we were working on an educational program on tobacco asked if they would tell their story.
They agreed and first created a short video that we used at a breakfast in November of 2001. Mike's story was illuminated in detail and he and Sandy spoke in person to 300 people. It was an emotional moment --their hope has always been that the sharing of their experiences will cause others to seriously consider their own tobacco addiction and work toward ameliorating it.
We had kept in contact with Mike and Sandy on a regular basis and during this time our organization was responsible for implementation of the statewide tobacco countermarketing campaign.
Q2. This campaign with Mike is the first one with an Alaskan story. Can you tell us about the previous tobacco control campaigns? What were the ads like? How did you select them?
Christie Garbe: Alaska's tobacco countermarketing campaign began in January of 2000 and was modeled on the same principles successfully used by California and Massachusetts.
We have three primary themes--Dangers of Second-hand smoke, Prompting Cessation attempts amongst adult smokers and Youth Prevention messages primarily utilizing TV and radio mediums.
Our budget was limited, so we decided to forgo the production of ads and utilize the excellent ads created in other states available to us at a reasonable cost from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Media Resource Center. Each year we have gathered tobacco control partners across the state to review the most recent wave of ads and then choose the top ads for placement for the year. Ads are then focus group tested here in Alaska within their target markets to ensure that they resonate. Each year we had utilized personal story ads from Massachusetts -- the "Pam Laffin series" and the "Rick and Marie" series. We could find no more ads that told a personal story and they were so successful in delivering the message according to our media awareness surveys, that we decided it was time to tell an Alaskan story.
Q3. You recently commissioned a poll that shows Alaskans have changed their attitudes and behavior regarding smoking. Can you underline the main changes and tell us what you consider the reasons for such an evolution?
Christie Garbe: In 2001 and 2002 our media campaign targeted Alaska urban markets. We contracted with Hellenthal & Associates who conduct a Media Awareness Survey for us to evaluate the effectiveness of our campaigns. In both years over 2,000 Alaskans were telephoned through a random dialing approach and were asked the same series of questions that measured awareness, attitude and behavior change related to our tobacco countermarketing campaign goals. The following table lists a short summary of some of our most dramatic results.
Household Smoking Rules Can’t Smoke in House, No Exceptions
71.1% in 2001 vs 80.3% in 2002 (increase of 12.9%) ·
Has Smoked, But Does Not Now
53.8% in 2001 vs 62.6% in 2002 (increase of 16.4%)
Would Like to Quit Smoking
67.8% in 2001 vs 75.5% in 2002 (increase of 11.4%) ·
Intend to Quit 56.4% in 2001 vs 64.7% in 2002 (increase of 14.7%) ·
Do Not Intend to Quit 35.7% in 2001 vs 24.7% in 2002 (decrease of 30.8%) ·
Would be Willing to Quit To Protect Health of My Family
72.3% in 2001 vs 77.2% in 2002 (increase of 6.8%) ·
Understands Over 400,000 Americans Die Each Year from Tobacco Use
60.9% in 2001 vs 75.1% in 2002 (increase of 8.8%) ·
Agree that People Need Protection from Second Hand Smoke
74.3% in 2001 vs 77.8% in 2002 (increase of 4.7%) ·
Understands Non-Smokers Can Get Fatal Disease from Second Hand Smoke 84.3% in 2001 vs 86.1% in 2002 (increase of 2.1%) ·
Seeing Counter-Marketing Ads Makes Smoker Think About Quitting 31.4% in 2001 vs 38.4% in 2002 (increase of 22.3%)
Source: Hellenthal & Associates, Tobacco Media Awareness Survey 2002
Tobacco control partners in Alaska were astonished at these large shifts and so was our survey administrator. We hypothesize that the combined efforts of policy changes (such as an increasing number of Clean Indoor Air Ordinances), community based tobacco control program and the availability of the quitline have all combined to do just what a comprehensive program does-reduce tobacco use.
Q4. In certain sates the budget for tobacco control has been drastically reduced if not totally eliminated. How is Alaska doing?
Christie Garbe: Ours is a good news bad news situation. The bad news is that our state was one of the first to securitize the settlement funds for capital projects. Currently, 80% of the Tobacco Settlement funds are securitized for rural school construction, harbor improvements and other projects. On the flip side, we have been successful in convincing our legislature to create the Tobacco Use Education and Cessation fund where the remaining 20% is allocated for the purposes of tobacco control and prevention programs. The difficulty we have is that each year our legislature must appropriate those funds in order for them to be available for programming. Last year was the first year we were successful at getting the full 20% appropriated. That sum came to just over $5 million dollars. The CDC recommendation for the minimum comprehensive program for Alaska is $8.1 million, so we are still below that mark, but we are hopeful that we can hold onto the 20% which is our daily mantra.
Q5. Each ad in your new campaign includes a phone number for smokers who want to stop. Is the quitline a new component of your strategy? How is it organized? How many calls do you expect?
Christie Garbe: The "Quitline" in Alaska is also funded by settlement dollars and is run through Providence Health System Alaska. They had a call center already in place and added smoking cessation services. ALAA staff trained their nurses in cessation counseling techniques via phone. They also forward our Alaskan "Quit-Kit" free of charge, which is full of resources for assisting adult smokers to free themselves from their nicotine addiction. The ads that ALAA runs drive the calls the quit line, so the number of calls received depend largely on our media placement schedule. The first year of operation they received nearly 700 calls. This past January we had a heavy media placement schedule around the New Year and the call center received 400 calls that month alone! Keep in mind the entire population of Alaska is just over 600,000.
Q6. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Christie Garbe: I can tell you that the people of Alaska have been deeply touched by the Sams' sharing of their experiences and we are all better people because of their courageous willingness to talk about the consequences of tobacco addiction. And to all of you who are working as hard as we are on tobacco control. Keep up the good fight!
Thank you Christie for taking the time to be with us.
P. S: this interview was inspired by two excellent articles written by Lisa Demer for the Anchorage Daily News
as reported by the daily tobacco control news selection provided by JoinTogether Online
Editor of Tobacco Control Rendez-Vous and The Tobacco Control Directory